Färst äkthetsförespråkare bland bibeltrogna

Som vanligt när nya upptäckter görs inom Bibelns område väcker de intresse och uppmärksamhet. Forskningsområdets karaktär gör att dessa fynd som regel också går att ifrågasätta vad gäller såväl äkthet som betydelse. När nu ett litet fragment som tillsynes säger att Jesus och Maria Magdalena var gifta med varandra påträffas, uppkommer givetvis frågan om det är äkta eller ej. I detta inlägg ska jag endast i mindre omfattning ta upp den frågan, då jag i nuläget saknar tillräcklig information för att kunna göra en trovärdig bedömning av äktheten. Däremot är det intressant att studera vilka positioner som olika företrädare intar.

Jag tycker mig märka en tendens där man positionerar sig längs en skala beroende på vilket förhållande man har till den kristna läran. Det kan närmast beskrivas som en sats eller kanske ”lag” som kan formuleras på följande vis: Ju mer ett fynd, en teori, överensstämmer med ens egen uppfattning, föreställning och önskan, desto troligare är att man också anser fyndet vara äkta eller teorin vara sann. Och givetvis fungerar detta också omvänt så att ju mindre fyndet, teorin överensstämmer med ens egna föreställningar, desto sannolikare att man anser fyndet vara förfalskat eller teorin vara oriktig.

Detta borde leda till ett antal insikter, nämligen …

1)      att de föreställningar man gör sig, kanske i högre grad än man vill tillstå är följden av andra föreställningar som man hyser;

2)      vad en viss forskare eller en viss forskarmajoritet hyser för uppfattning är av liten eller ingen vikt, såvida denna uppfattning inte kan styrkas genom solida fakta och argument;

3)      även då sådana fakta och argument i hög omfattning föreligger, bör man fråga sig i vilken mån dessa råkar visa i en riktning som denna forskare eller denna forskarmajoritet av olika anledningar önskar ska vara sant.

Fragmentet medför, eller i varje fall skulle kunna medföra, en förändrad uppfattning om Jesus och den tidiga kristendomens uppkomst. Bland de som önskar sådana förändringar och som därför heller inte är alltför bokstavligt bibeltroende, välkomnas ofta fynd av detta slag och kanske hoppas man därför att det ska visa sig vara äkta. Därigenom tenderar man lättare att finna argument till stöd för att fragmentet också är äkta. Och ju mer bibeltrogen (eller kanske bokstavstrogen) man är, desto mindre förtjust synes man vara över detta fynd och kanske hoppas man därför att det ska visa sig vara förfalskat. Därigenom tenderar man lättare att finna argument till stöd för att fragmentet också är förfalskat. Mycket grovt uppskattat (och givetvis med allehanda undantag) kan man nog säga att det finns färst äkthetsförespråkare bland de som är mest bibeltrogna och då flest bland de som är litet eller inget bibeltrogna eller bokstavstroende. Självfallet fungerar detta på likartat sätt när ett fynd som sägs utgöra Jesu svepning kommer på tal, där väl nästan enbart kristna tror att Turinsvepningen är äkta.

Det lustiga (eller olustiga?) med denna iakttagelse är att det verkar gälla högt aktade forskare i ungefär samma utsträckning som det gäller vanliga lekmän. Jag avser här inte att räkna upp namn. För övrigt är detta också bara min egen högst ovetenskapliga uppfattning och det är svårt att göra en sådan uppdelning då det inte går att säkert avgöra hur övertygade olika personer är om föremålets äkthet, ej heller hur bibeltrogna de är. Skillnaden i position mellan profana respektive kristna forskare/professorer å den ena sidan och den ateistiska/agnostiska/religiösa (och andra) allmänheten å den andra sidan, ligger främst i att de förstnämnda genom sin skolning och sin position oftast uttrycker sig mer försiktigt med tillbörliga reservationer, medan de sistnämnda i högre grad är mer kategoriska.

Däremot verkar de inte förhålla sig mer objektivt. Argumenten som framförs kan vara av högst varierande slag inom båda grupperna. Men fastän forskare är mer försiktiga kommer de likväl till likartade slutsatser i förhållande till sin personliga tro som allmänheten gör – om än med stöd av skilda argument. Jag kan inte på något vis själv svära mig fri från detta, utan bara konstatera att trots att de flesta tycks anse att de arbetar objektivt lyckas de likväl som regel hitta argument till stöd för uppfattningar som stämmer med vad de redan innan trodde.

I en kommentar till mitt föregående inlägg Jesus’ hustru Maria Magdalena? hänvisar signaturen bbnews till en artikel Vatican researchers conclude “Jesus’ wife” papyrus fragment is fake. Denna artikel där Vatikanen tydligen anser att fragmentet är en förfalskning (som då ger stöd för min indelning) hänvisar i sin tur till en artikel av Francis Watson, The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: How a fake Gospel-Fragment was composed. Där argumenterar Watson för att fragment ”sannolikt” är en förfalskning; då att någon sammanställt texten ur Thomasevangeliet, främst från verserna 101 och 114. På ett likartat sätt argumenterade han också för att Hemliga Markusevangeliet är en förfalskning genom att någon ”klippt och klistrat” ur de övriga evangelierna (se mitt bemötande av Watson: The pastiche forgery of Secret Mark, as presented by Francis Watson) och han passar på att även i denna artikel hänvisa till Hemliga Markusevangeliet som en modern parallell på en förfalskning.

Det finns dock flera problem med Watsons teknik. Antalet ord som förekommer i fragmentet är först och främst få. De flesta är dessutom vanliga ord och de enda riktigt ovanliga, nämligen ”hustru” och ”svullna” saknar paralleller. Alltså, det som är verkligen utmärkande uppvisar inga paralleller. Watsons metod är dessutom selektiv eftersom den utgår från att det är en förfalskning och han därför söker efter stöd för just detta. Allt detta har min vän Timo Paananen påtalat i en utmärkt liten artikel, Another “Fake” Or Just a Problem of Method: What Francis Watson’s Analysis Does to Papyrus Köln 255? där Paananen undersökt ett garanterat äkta textfragment, Papyrus Köln 255, och med samma metod som Watson använde påvisat att också det måste vara en förfalskning eftersom paralleller från Johannesevangeliet står att finna på motsvarande sätt. Paananen säger att Watsons teknik kan beskrivas på följande sätt:

1)      Om fragmentet är en förfalskning borde förfalskaren ha sammanställt texten genom att hämta bitar ur olika äkta texter.

2)      Och om så är fallet borde de textställen förfalskaren använt gå att finna.

3)      Det går faktiskt att finna sådana textställen.

4)      Därigenom är fragmentet en sammanställning gjord ur andra texter.

5)      Därmed är det också en förfalskning.

Tekniken är snarlik den som Stephen Carlson använde i The Gospel Hoax. Paananen visar alltså hur lätt det är med denna teknik att påvisa att garanterat äkta texter är förfalskade. Därmed blir metoden också verkningslös. Frågan om huruvida fragmentet är äkta eller ej kommer förhoppningsvis att kunna avgöras, emedan vi i detta fall (i motsats till Hemliga Markus) har tillgång till det för analyser. Sådana verkar redan ha påbörjats. Så här skriver Karen King angående test av bläcket:

“We are also pursuing chemical testing of the ink. The owner has agreed that the fragment itself will remain at Harvard University for the time being, where it will be accessible to accredited scholars.”

“We are currently in the process of seeking to have the chemical composition of the ink tested by non-destructive methods. While this analysis will not yield a specific date, it can indicate whether the composition of the ink corresponds to comparable inks used in antiquity. “

Vad gäller äktheten anser hon att det skulle vara mycket svårt att förfalska det sätt på vilket bläcket har bleknat och spridit sig, något som tyder på hög ålder:

“On the other hand, there are a number of other facts that point toward authenticity. Most notably, it would be extremely difficult to forge the way the ink has been preserved on the writing material. As mentioned above, the ink on the verso has faded badly, an unfortunate characteristic shared with many ancient papyri, but an indicator of a long aging process.”

Vad jag har förstått så verkar den anonyme ägaren av denna papyrusbit ha mer av samma sort tillhörande samma koptiska skrift, och att om den efter den forensiska analysen visar sig vara äkta kommer även resten att bli tillgängligt (för den som kan betala tillräckligt – gissar jag).

Roger Viklund, 2012-09-28

Francis Watson on the Secret Gospel of Mark

“While discussion of the Secret Gospel will no doubt continue, my hope and expectation is that it will be increasingly ignored by scholars who fear, with good reason, that their work will be corrupted by association with it.”

franciswatson2

Francis Watson

This is how Francis Watson, Chair of Biblical Interpretation at Durham University, England, ends his response to Allan J. Pantuck, in a new article in Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR). And this should perhaps also have been the end of my blog post, since Watson’s closing remark really says it all. His “hope” is that the Secret Gospel of Mark “will be increasingly ignored by scholars”. I found the current article, Beyond Reasonable Doubt: A Response to Allan J. Pantuck, to be biased by Watson’s conviction that Morton Smith forged the Mar Saba letter and that the article therefore was lacking even more in substance than his previous, longer and fundamental paper (Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark, JTS 61, 2010), to which Pantuck was replying in the first place in Solving the Mysterion of Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark (see also my review: Allan J. Pantuck on the Secret Gospel of Mark).

Maybe Watson meant to say that the Mar Saba letter for certain is a forgery and that he therefore is hoping that no one would be wasting efforts on interpreting a forgery. But the sheer lack of evidence presented by Watson in favour of the letter being forged and his total confidence that so also is the case, speaks against such an interpretation. Instead Watsons sets out from the expectation that we should ignore Secret Mark and that it is a fact that Morton Smith made it up; and from this conviction he tries to support his view.

Allan Pantuck choose to refute just two of the many arguments Watson presented in his fundamental paper; the ones that Hershel Shanks, the editor of BAR, found most persuasive. That is the parallels between Smith’s discovery and the plot in James Hogg Hunter’s novel The Mystery of Mar Saba, and Watson’s assumption that Morton Smith made an idiosyncratic analysis of the Gospel of Mark in which he laid out arguments that according to Watson also was confirmed by Smith’s discovery of The Secret Gospel of Mark.

Watson claims that Pantuck’s isolating of “two of the more accessible bits of this argument, and then speculating on the probability or otherwise of striking coincidences, does little to further the debate”. He believes “that Morton Smith’s authorship can be established ‘beyond reasonable doubt’” only if all of his arguments are “considered in full”.

This is a very strange way of arguing. Of course it is legitimate to refute individual arguments within a complex of many more arguments. And why would the full consideration of every argument show that Watson is right, if it can be shown that the individual arguments he presents cannot withhold a critical examination? In fact Watson presented very few new facts in his paper. Most of what he presented was the same old arguments already laid out by others, such as Stephen Carlson; and many of those has already been refuted. Just because Watson rehashed some of those and made them even more improbable, does not mean that they were new.

For example, Watson presents parallels between the Secret Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Mark and claims that the pericope thereby “would seem to be the work of an author determined to pattern his own work on mainly Markan phraseology.” But he does not even suggest the most obvious explanation; that the phraseology was Markan BECAUSE it was written by the same person who also wrote the Gospel of Mark. In The pastiche forgery of Secret Mark, as presented by Francis Watson, I showed that I could find even closer parallels in the Gospel of Mark to the parallels presented by Watson than he himself could find to the Secret Gospel of Mark. Of course you will find parallels to a certain writer if in fact he is the writer. In any normal circumstances a close parallel between a text and the genuine writing of a certain author is an indication that this author also is the author of the text. But this is not the case when it comes to the Mar Saba letter, because it has to be a forgery, and therefore also the things which indicates that it is genuine is used to argue that it is a forgery. Stephan Huller has repeatedly noted on his blog the same thing when it comes to the writing of Clement; that although everything is typical of Clement, it is nevertheless interpreted as a clever forgery by those who so badly wants it to be a forgery.

Pantuck objected to Watson’s claim that in the Mar Saba letter does Smith’s earlier view finds its confirmation, by showing that Smith’s view actually changed by his discovery. Watson agrees that there “is indeed a shift of emphasis at this point” but he retorts by saying that it “does not amount to much”:

“For one thing, the Secret Gospel still has Jesus teaching the mystery of the kingdom of God, even though the nocturnal setting and the partial or complete nudity of the two male participants hint at “rites” of a strictly private nature.”

Now, I have no great expectations for the forgery-proponents when it comes to making solid arguments for their case. But I become a bit surprised when someone is actually not telling the truth. What on earth does Watson suggest when he writes: “the partial or complete nudity of the two male participants”? Let me quote the actual passage from the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“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.”

Without any restrictions, Watson says that both Jesus and the youth are either partially or completely nude. Let us begin with Jesus. Where is it said that Jesus was either partially or completely nude? It is said that Jesus taught the youth the mystery of the kingdom of God, probably during the night. But nothing is said about Jesus taking off his clothes. What about the youth then? Is it said that he is naked? Not at all, only that he just wears a linen cloth. Does this mean that he is partially naked? Of course not. It is suggested that the linen cloth coved the entire body, and thereby you are neither partially, nor totally naked. This clearly untrue statement by Watson is really poor scholarship. How can you argue with someone who is not paying regards to the facts?

Watson’s first objection is obviously nothing to pay attention to. What about his second objection?

“In addition, my argument does not assert or require a total continuity between Smith’s views pre- and post-discovery, only a high degree of continuity. The full force of this point is only evident if one grasps how unusual Smith’s esotericism is within the context of New Testament scholarship in the 1950s and indeed today.”

Okey, but Pantuck’s objection was that Smith changed his opinion on this matter after the discovery. To this Watson gives no reply apart from saying that Pantuck’s objection “does not amount to much” and then he says that his argument does only assert or require “a high degree of continuity”. This of course is no objection at all and Pantuck’s argument is still valid.

The second subject is the alleged parallels to Hunter’s novel. Interestingly, Watson presents another parallel in order to show that “coincidences do happen in real life”. He then makes up a story of a hypothetical novel written in c. 1895 before the “Piltdown Man hoax of 1912”. Watson obviously suggests this to be a better parallel to Morton Smith’s discovery and that this example therefore would be refuting Pantuck’s parallels. I must say that I find it difficult to follow Watson’s logic. How can you prove something by MAKING UP a parallel and showing this to be similar to an actual incident? I would for sure have preferred a parable by Jesus.

The Hunter novel parallel is really stupid. If you only think for yourself, it is so plain meaningless. How on earth can one believe that Morton Smith would have modeled a forgery upon the plot in a spy novel? Of course you can model a novel upon an actual event. It is just to make up that story. But if you are imitating a novel, you also need to act like the novel, such as searching and be given access to the library at Mar Saba in order to plant the forgery; and like Watson claims, also express yourself in similar terms when you describe how you made your discovery.

Watson totally fails to refute anything presented by Pantuck.

Roger Viklund, 2011-04-22

Allan J. Pantuck on the Secret Gospel of Mark

A review of Allan J. Pantuck’s latest article published at Biblical Archaeology Review, Solving the Mysterion of Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark.

Allan Jonathan Pantuck, MD, MS, FACS. Associate Professor of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

And so it finally came out. Having had the privilege of reading Allan Pantuck’s latest article in advance, I have been eagerly waiting for it to be published in Biblical Archaeology Review. Pantuck makes no great fuzz, but his arguments are very persuasive.

The article is mainly a response to two of Francis Watson’s arguments in his article Beyond Suspicion: On the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark, JTS 61 (2010); and then the two arguments which Hershel Shanks “appears to have found most persuasive”.

In the first part of the article, Pantuck deals with Watson’s assumption that Morton Smith made an idiosyncratic analysis of the Gospel of Mark in which he laid out arguments that according to Watson also was confirmed by Smith’s discovery of The Secret Gospel of Mark. In the second part Pantuck deals with the purported similarities between Smith’s discovery of Clement’s letter to Theodoros and the plot in James H. Hunter’s 1940-novel The Mystery of Mar Saba.

The analysis of the Gospel of Mark

In The Secret Gospel of Mark Jesus is said to have taught the youth the “mystery of the kingdom of God”. In the years before his discovery, Smith made some exegesis on Mark 4:11, where Jesus says that also his disciples had “been given the mystery of the kingdom of God”. Pantuck writes:

“While Watson acknowledges that there would be nothing unusual in finding some points of continuity between Smith’s prior views and his later interpretation of the Secret Gospel, he finds a scenario where these views themselves coincide so closely to the contents of the letter as to be suspicious. However, he does not consider how one should view significant discontinuities between Smith’s pre-discovery views, the contents of the letter, and Smith’s subsequent post-discovery interpretation. Yet, contra Watson, it is such discontinuities that we in fact find, lending support to the notion that Smith’s discovery led him to reevaluate and alter his prior views in significant ways.”

Pantuck shows that prior to Smith’s discovery of the Secret Gospel of Mark, Smith held to the opinion that the word mysterion in the context of Mark 4:11 meant that Jesus was teaching in secret, and therefore “the mysterion of the kingdom of God concerned secret teachings and not secret rites.” But after Smith made the discovery he also changed his opinion in this matter and instead claimed that the opinion “that mysterion can never mean ‘secret rite,’ was ‘false’ and, in one aspect, ‘incredible.’”

Further Pantuck deals with Smith’s view on the relation between the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John. Watson claims that Smith was of the opinion that parts from John and Mark 2:1–3:6 “may derive from a common source.” But according to Pantuck Smith instead showed in detail, that “they completely lack Johannine traits.” But after his discovery, Smith thought that there was a common Aramaic source behind the two gospels. In fact it was only in 1963, after three years of frequent discussions with Cyril Richardson, that Smith changed his understanding and came to the conclusion that there probably was a common source behind John and Mark.

Both of these two examples show that Smith changed his opinion on fundamental issues due to his discovery, and such turning of the tide is far more persuasive in order to establish authenticity, than any number of superficial similarities between Smith’s prior views and his later interpretation of the Secret Gospel of Mark are to establish forgery.

James Hogg Hunter’s novel The Mystery of Mar Saba

I guess that not many of today’s advocators of pro and con forgery, actually have read The Mystery of Mar Saba by Hunter. Perhaps if they did, not so many would argue that Smith used the novel as a template to forge the letter; both its content and the way it was discovered. Many things can be held against such a fanciful idea, although it seems to have persuaded among others Francis Watson, Stephen Carlson and Robert M. Price. But Pantuck tackles the problem from a different perspective. Instead of putting too much effort into dealing directly with the similarities which Watson has elaborated upon, Pantuck lists a few examples of extraordinary similarities in other areas which for certain have happened by chance. If such extraordinary similarities can occur by chance, why would we not be able to come up with some similarities also regarding Smith’s discovery – Pantuck seems to say.

Pantuck gives a five examples. He compares Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, in which there is a shipwreck and four survivors are stuck in a boat. After a few days of hunger they killed and ate a cabin boy named Richard Parker. And forty years later there was an actual shipwreck with only four survivors stranded in an open boat and eventually three from the crew did kill and eat a cabin boy named Richard Parker.

Then there is Morgan Robertson’s novel Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan where a ship named the Titan sunk after hitting an iceberg. 14 years later Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in the same month and at the same place. The ships were both unsinkable, of almost equal size, and both had too few lifeboats.

Pantuck also finds another striking parallel to Smith’s discovery, but this time made by a certain Sophronius in the monastery of St. Catherine’s. Pantuck says that the “parallels here are more substantial than those Watson proposes”. But since this discovery was made in 1975, Smith could not really have imitated the story. And no one has suggested that Sophronius imitated Smith.

The fourth example deals with a letter written by an editor by the name of Clement Alexandre; a letter found by Pantuck in Morton Smith’s archives at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Pantuck asks himself:

“What are the odds that I should discover in a seminary library a previously unknown letter of Clement Alexandre requesting permission to publish the writings of Morton Smith”?

And the final example has to do with Pantuck searching the archives in order to find material regarding Morton Smith’s time at Brown University. He did for sure find a letter written by Morton Smith to the president of Brown University, but it was another Morton Smith, obviously “living in Providence, Rhode Island, at the same time”.

I have never been impressed by these forced parallels, perhaps because I have read the book and really thought the similarities were superficial. But Pantuck has in my opinion hit the Hunter novel parallel paradigm and sunk the Titanic.

My own take on this issue

Although Pantuck to some degree also makes a critical examination of some of Watson’s arguments concerning the similarities between the plot in the novel and the real discovery made by Smith, more can be said. And, for what it is worth, here is my take on this issue …

The similarities between Smith’s discovery and James Hogg Hunter’s novel from 1940 are purely imaginary similarities. The purported similarity between The Clement letter and Hunter’s novel is based on mathematically flawed statistics. You need to take into account every other novel that has been written before 1958, because if you start by looking for a novel with a content that resembles the Clement letter and its discovery, the chance of finding one that shares some similarities rapidly increases with the number of books you put into the calculation. I believe Alan Pantuck has shown this beyond any doubt. If you’re allowed to use the whole world literature with its vast number of novels counted in hundreds of thousand or perhaps millions, the chance of finding a novel which at least superficially resembles the discovery of Clement’s letter to Theodoros seems to be fairly high.

Further you have to take into account that both The Shred of Nicodemus (the text found in the novel) and Clement’s letter to Theodoros with extracts from the Secret Gospel of Mark are, and are relying upon, Gospel material, and therefore are bound to show similarities. Further the purported similarity that both are forgeries made at Mar Saba is not to be dealt with in a statistical analysis, since the suggestion that Clement’s letter to Theodoros actually is a forgery cannot be part of any parallels when in fact this very issue is the thing that is proposed and therefore the object of the investigation. If that is put into the calculation, it will be part of a circular reasoning. The question we should ask ourselves is if we were to take any event in modern history and tried to find a novel written before that event with a content that resembles it, would we likely come up with a parallel?

Francis Watson in the article, Beyond Suspicion: on the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark (JTS 61, 2010, 128-170), further elaborates on these purported similarities. After Francis Watson has summarized the plot of Hunter’s novel, he says: “Thus far, the parallel with Smith’s Mar Saba discovery is intriguing but inexact.” Yes, because the only real similarity he presents is the place of Mar Saba, where of course you could make a discovery of this magnitude and also a place you easily would chose in a novel for the same reason. And there is no similarity that both documents are forged (as he suggests), since we do not know that Clement’s letter to Theodoros is forged and as I said, one cannot simply assume that and use this as evidence when the actual issue is whether or not it is forged. If so it is a circular reasoning.

Then of course it was no secret that most manuscripts had been carried off to Jerusalem and that Morton Smith therefore would not have had any great expectations to make a major discovery. Watson writes that the “Nicodemus fragment and the letter to Theodore are discovered in similar circumstances narrated in similar language.” But what kinds of parallels are there really when Watson in Hunter’s novel finds that Sir William Bracebridge at a meeting back in London uses the word reconciled, while Smith wrote that he was reconciling himself; both to something negative, yet expressed differently? Really far-fetched! If you search for these kinds of similarities, you are bound to find some. Besides, there really are no “similar circumstances”.

Watson also claims that the “two Mar Saba discoveries are … similar in content.” To show this he says that in both cases a “short but sensational excerpt of an early text is discovered”. Now seriously, this is really generally expressed. What else could they find? In Smith’s case he did find many non-sensational finds and this one was the sensational one. Are we then to suppose that he forged it because of this? Or shall we believe that he was inspired by Hunter to produce a sensational text?

Further Watson claims that the discovery was made “together with a text or texts dating from the second century (manuscripts of Hermas and Barnabas, and of the letter to Theodore, respectively).” This is not entirely correct. It is (as far as I can see) never said in the novel that The Shepherd of Hermas and The Epistle of Barnabas are from the second century and as you probably all know, they could be from the first century. In the novel there are three separate documents, one for each book; and the third, The Shred of Nicodemus, is dated to the first century. This Shred of Nicodemus is never said to be “short” and is for sure no excerpt from a letter of Clement. So The Shred of Nicodemus is not short, not necessarily found together with a text or texts dating from the second century and there are separate documents found. The Mar Saba letter on the other hand is only one letter, with two short excerpts from Secret Mark and the letter could well have been written by Clement in the third century.

But the real problem lies in the causality. We are supposed to believe that Smith read a poor apologetic spy novel, got inspired to make a forgery in a similar fashion, which includes having a similar name as the Chief of the London police, Lord Moreton, a minor character being introduced late in the story, then started to study different fields in order to acquire the competence needed for the task. He then managed to get permission to visit Mar Saba, in spite of their restrictions, in order to plant his forgery. As I understand it Smith was given a special permission as a personal gesture to catalogue books at Mar Saba. What are the odds that someone being inspired by a novel to make a forgery at Mar Saba, also would get permission to examine manuscripts at Mar Saba? Because, one needs to assume that this was the causality in this context.

I would say that the only reasonable influence by the book on Smith, would be if he saw the title and came up with the idea to make a forgery and plant it at Mar Saba, as he was planning on going there anyway. But then he just as easily could have come up with that idea for a number of other reasons.

Roger Viklund, 2011-02-20

Refuting ”The Gospel Hoax”

As I said in my previous post Why this homosexual reading of Secret Mark? I intended to publish the reply I made at “Jesus Mysteries” to Jake Jones IV’s summary of Stephen Carlson’s The Gospel Hoax. I have elaborated a bit more on that reply and also made it a bit less polemic, but as it covers most of Carlson’s book my intention has never been to make an in depth formal examination of every argument he presents. The list published by Jake Jones IV was his summary and I will comment upon that summary, point by point. Some arguments I will elaborate more in detail, other I will just make some short comments upon. I will first present Carlson’s arguments (as summarised by Jake Jones) set in blue and my comments beneath set in black.

1. Theodore and Secret Mark reflect the sexual mores of the 1950’s rather than the 200’s.

In my opinion, neither the letter to Theodoros, nor Secret Mark, reflects any sexuality. No matter what people say, that is merely an interpretation of the text. Let us study what the text actually says (the translation is Morton Smith’s own).

After Jesus has raised the youth (Lazarus), “the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him.“ To be with someone would in the ancient world not be synonymous with dating in modern terms, but more in line with joining or following someone. And the Greek word translated as “loved” is ἠγάπησεν. Agapaô means ”felt love for” and is normally used in a ”Platonic sense” to feel affection or true love and is not to be confused with ἔρως (erôs), the more sexual attraction. Remember that the same word agapaô also is used in John 11:5 when Jesus is said to love “Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus” (ἠγάπα δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὴν Μάρθαν καὶ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν Λάζαρον). And it is obvious that the youth in Secret Mark is the same person as Lazarus in John 11.

“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.” Again, I believe that many people are fooled by the translation. To wear something over your naked body is NOT to be naked. In Swedish the correct translation would be “på sin bara kropp”, i.e. “on his bare body”. The focus is not on the nudeness, but instead on the fact that there are no other clothes beneath. You could say that he wore his shirt on his bare body and the only thing that this means is that he had no undershirt. I don’t know how this is expressed in other languages, but in Swedish it could hardly be expressed as “he wore his shirt on his naked body” (han bar skjortan utanpå sin nakna kropp) only “on his bare body” (på sin bara kropp). The focus is not on the nudeness but on the fact that wears only a pure “linen cloth”.

“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.” Again the translation “remained with him that night” or “stayed with him that night” is a modern expressions which often means that people sleep with each other. Also Eckhard Rau says that in modern terms this is perceived as “spend the night with as ‚to copulate with casually’“. (see my REVIEW: Weder gefälscht noch authentisch? By Eckhard Rau.) Stephen Huller compares it to the “Rolling Stones ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together”.

One should also remember Mark 14:51–52: “there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about [his] naked [body] … [a]nd he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.” Further there could not possibly be anything sexual about the fact that “Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God” since in Mark 4:11 also the other disciples “is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God”.

As I said in my previous post Why this homosexual reading of Secret Mark? I cannot see why people believe this has anything to do with homosexuality or sexuality at all; especially when you realise that this story hardly is based on any historic event.

2. Morton Smith was a life long bachelor, and as far as we know, he was gay. Thus Smith would have a personal interest in attitudes about homosexuality in the 1950’s.

Morton Smith

Morton Smith

Apart from Morton Smith actually being a bachelor, there is no proof that he was gay. In fact we have two witnesses to the contrary as Morton Smith seems to have been dating women. Of course some people said that he was homosexual and there seems to have been a lot of gossiping. I prefer not to listen to gossip. It could be that he remained a bachelor all his life because of his disappointment with the outcome of his love affairs. And even if he was gay, why would that suggest that he was a “criminal”? Are we living in the Middle Ages, where homosexuality was considered a crime and would lead to Smith committing this “crime”? I see no reason at all to suspect someone for being a criminal, or for that matter being immoral, just because he is homosexual.

Those who read Swedish can also se my blog post: Förtalet av Morton Smith som en illvillig homosexuell bedragare.

3. There is zero evidence for the antiquity of Secret Mark other than Morton Smith’s discovery.

Papyrus Egerton 2, fragment 1

It is true that there is no evidence for the antiquity of Secret Mark other than Morton Smith’s discovery. But if it would be a criterion that a text necessarily needs to be testified for in antiquity in order to be genuine, this would mean that we already know of every scripture that ever existed. There is also no evidence for Q (if one believes in Q) or the Egerton gospel (until its discovery last century). One must realize that the absolute majority of all texts in the Antiquity has been lost.

4. According to SC, Morton Smith never stated unambiguously that he discovered Secret Mark at Mar Saba. Such descriptions are always carefully guarded by conditionals. Such “weasel wording” is evidence of Smith trying to convey a false impression while avoiding a lie in the technical sense.

Per Beskow

That Smith never stated unambiguously that he discovered Secret Mark at Mar Saba, I find to be just semantics. Smith was seized with fury against those who accused him of forgery and was hypersensitive to any suggestion in this direction, something that Per Beskow found out when Smith threatened Beskow’s publisher to sue him for a gigantic sum if he would publish a book in which Beskow only pointed to the possibility of a forgery (see my article: Per Beskow and the Elusive MS over at Timo S. Paananen’s blog).

5. Morton Smith was well qualified to perpetuate such a hoax.

a. In 1955 Smith had published an analysis of a commentary on GMark

b. Morton Smith had an intimate knowledge of monastic libraries, particularly Mar Saba which he had visited previously.

c. Morton Smith had inspected, photographed, and transcribed dozens of Greek manuscripts, many of which he dated to the 18th century.

d. While at Drew, Smith had become interested in the Philosophumena of Hippolytus, which includes a discussion of the Carpocratians.

e. Smith, in March 1958, published an article, ”Image of God”, that cited Clement of Alexandria four times.

Of course Smith was a very knowledgeable scholar, but I don’t think people in general realise what it would take to accomplish a forgery like this letter in the 1950’s. Smith was a “document hunter”. He visited many monasteries during several travels and did then catalogue ancient books in those monasteries. Then of course Smith was just that kind of person we would expect to make a find like this one. Only those who searched for ancient manuscripts could possibly find such manuscripts. Helmut Koester tells us that he spent some time with Smith (a week), helping him to decipher the letter, and came to realize that Smith did have problems to understand the letter and could not even properly decipher the difficult Greek handwriting of the letter.

Helmut Koester

“Obviously, a forger would not have had the problems that Morton was struggling with. Or Morton Smith was an accomplished actor and I a complete fool.” (Helmut Koester, Was Morton Smith a Great Thespian and I a Complete Fool? Biblical Archaeology Review, Nov/Dec 2009)

What is it worth that a Biblical scholar like Smith “cited Clement of Alexandria four times”, or that he was interested in a text where the Carpocratians were discussed? What Biblical scholar has not quoted Clement or read about the Carpocratians? It takes a lot more to make a forgery of this “size” than having studied a certain subject.

6. Smith’s authentication of the manuscript by ten colleagues to “about 1750, plus or minus about fifty years” is inadequate. (pages 23-25).

a. The experts never saw the original document.

b. We don’t know if the experts saw photographs or photostats.

c. We don’t know how much time was spent by each respective college.

d. The results are filtered through Smith. We do not know if he understood them correctly, or if any qualifications were expressed.

e. Most of the experts were consulted orally, so we have no record of what was said.

f. They were simply asked to date the hand. This is entirely too informal.

g. The possibility of forgery and suspicious details was inquired upon after the documents were inspected. In fact, the wording used by Smith may indicate that only a single expert was asked about a hoax.

h. There is no evidence that the ten colleagues were provided with any comparison documents.

i. Smith did not deem it necessary to itemize the replies. This amounts then to nothing more than hearsay by a possible hoaxer.

Agamemnon Tselikas

Agamemnon Tselikas

On the other hand no one has said that the writing does not look like it is written during the early or the middle of the 18th century. The only objection seems to come from Agamemnon Tselikas, who on the other hand still has not published anything on this subject and who admits that the writing looks like an early 18th century hand. I would also say that the differences between the handwriting of the Cephalonia MSS (which Tselikas believes that Smith imitated and of which I have only seen very poor images) and the handwriting of the Mar Saba letter, are significant. If someone tried to copy that hand he or she did a very poor job.

On top of this we also have Venetia Anastasopoulou’s verdict; that dismisses Smith as the one who wrote the letter and says this:

“The whole writing shows freedom, spontaneity and artistic flair. It also shows a skillful penmanship of a well educated and trained writer who uses the language effectively in expressing his thoughts” (see her Handwriting Examination).

She also states that the letter …

“is written in a natural and spontaneous way and in my opinion, does not have such indications so to make us think of a suspicious writing” (see Can a Document in Itself Reveal a Forgery?).

7. The Letter to Theodore containing Secret Mark was not forged flawlessly. It shows ample evidence of being a forgery.

a. Blunt ends
b. Pen lifts
c. Retouching
d. Shaky lines
e. Forger’s tremor

This now belongs to the past. Carlson’s handwriting analyse has failed every criterion. He says that the letter shows signs of forgery by blunt ends, pen lifts, retouching, shaky lines and forger’s tremor. But he was wrong, yet managed to deceive many scholars into believing this. All of these “signs” which Carlson spotted was not in the writing but an effect of the line screen that was used when the images were printed in Morton Smith’s book. If Carlson had consulted the original photos instead of the printed copies, he would not have found those signs. I did show this already in 2009 (see my article: Tremors, or Just an Optical Illusion? A Further Evaluation of Carlson’s Handwriting Analysis) and Carlson has not yet even commented upon this (or anything else). Since a couple of years he is totally silent and he even declined BAR’s invitation to respond to Scott Brown.

Also Scott Brown in the second part of his new article called My Thoughts on the Analysis by Stephen Carlson,  showed why Carlson was mistaken:

“By comparing enlargements of the halftone images with enlargements made from the original photographs, it becomes obvious that the halftone apparatus misrepresents the line quality of the handwriting, producing artifacts such as disconnections, blobs, and corrugated or stepped lines that resemble pen lifts, hesitations, and forger’s tremor.”

8. SC identities Theodore and Secret Mark to be written in the same hand, photographed and published by Morton Smith, assigned number 22 in Smith’s catalog (pages 42-43). Smith dates the first hand, not to the 18th century, but confidently to the 20th century, and attributes it to M. Madiotes — the ”bald swindler”. Smith was folically impaired, so this is a confession.

The so-called M. Madiotes argument is another total disaster in Carlson’s attempt to accuse Smith of forgery. Carlson was wrong on every aspect as he had totally misunderstood what is in the text. In 2008 Allan Pantuck and Scott Brown published hitherto unknown material from Smith’s literary remains, in the article Morton Smith as M. Madiotes: Stephen Carlson’s Attribution of Secret Mark to a Bald Swindler.

First of all, MS 22 is not a text written by one person, but a set of short texts written by several people. Secondly, the text that Carlson claims is written in the same hand as the Clement letter is not written in the same hand, but in a markedly different one, yet still a characteristically eighteenth-century handwriting. Thirdly, Smith had not dated this text to the twentieth century. He had not dated it at all, nor commented on it. Fourthly, the text is not signed by M. Madiotes. It is not signed at all. That is because the text supposedly written by M. Madiotes is a different hand on the same page. Fifthly, the text said to be by M. Madiotes is written in a different style and upside down in relation to the text Carlson assumed was written by M. Madiotes. Whoever wrote this, wrote nothing apart from the name (his name?). Sixthly, it was therefore only the name that Smith dated to the twentieth century. The text that Carlson mistakenly thought that Smith attributed to M. Madiotes is in contrast written in typical eighteenth century handwriting. All in all, so to speak, six errors of fact! Besides, the name probably was not even Madiotes. Smith probably made a mistake in reading the faint name, which seems to have been M. Modestos.

For those who read Swedish there is an article that I wrote called ”M. Madiotes”-argumentet, which is based on Pantuck’s and Brown’s discovery and where I also added some extra material for comparison.

9. Theodore begins with a sphragis, ”From the letters of the most holy Clement, the author of the Stromateis.” This is evidence of a forgery. See pages 54-56 of The Gospel Hoax.

A so-called sphragis (Greek: σφραγίς) is a seal of authenticity. Carlson suggests that the letter contains information that was not necessary to know for the receiver of the letter and therefore was added by a forger to make the letter look authentic. The first line of the letter does not begin with a sphragis, and neither did Carlson say that it did. The first line is a headline added later to identify the letter. The letter could have been part of a larger collection, as we know that there existed such a collection of letters by Clement at Mar Saba in the early eight century.

Carlson instead claimed that that the alluding to Clement’s condemnation of the Carpocratians (which was already known) is a sphragis, and so also the information that the secret gospel was still being kept in Alexandria (according to Carlson an unnecessary detail if Clement was still in Alexandria). Carlson also sees the quoting of the long passage from Secret Mark with the exact information of where it was placed, as an unnecessary detail only meant for the modern reader.

Scott G. Brown

Scott Brown does however show that Clement on other occasions do quote a text in its entirety when he believes that the text was distorted and then also gives the “correct” interpretation of the text. (Scott G. Brown, The Letter to Theodore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Clement’s Authorship, JECS 16:4, 2008).

Jeff Jay on the other hand chose to compares Clement’s letter to other ancient letters. His conclusion:

“The letter to Theodore is plausible in light of letter writing in the late second or early third century and has tight generic coherence in form, content, and function.” (Jeff Jay, A New Look at the Epistolary Framework of the Secret Gospel of Mark, JECS 16:4, 2008, p. 597).

10. SC gives credit to Andrew Criddle (p. xv) who identified that Theodore is hyper-Clementine (a deliberate imitation of Clementine’s style).

Although Carlson does misrepresent what Criddle actually said in his statistical study of the letter, Criddle’s objection still is interesting, yet far from conclusive. Criddle counted the words never before used by Clement and the words he only used once before. The ratio he got from dividing these figures were then compared to an expected ratio. In Criddles study there were too many words which Clement used only once before and too few which were never before used by Clement. The ratio was 4/9 whereas it according to Criddle should have been 8/5. But this could not possibly make the letter hyper-Clementine, because one cannot say that the words Clement never used or previously used only once are words which are typical for Clement – quite the contrary. Andrew Criddle’s study was called On the Mar Saba Letter Attributed to Clement of Alexandria, JECS 3.2, 1995, 215–220. For those who read Swedish I have evaluated Criddles study at Andrew Criddles statistiska undersökning av ordfrekvensen i Klemensbrevet.

But when the same method as the one Criddle used on “To Theodoros” was used on Shakespeare, the results were not particularly impressive. The test was done on 7 of William Shakespeare’s plays, and the result of this test was that 4 of these 7 were not written by Shakespeare. That also included 2 plays of which consensus say that they are indeed written by Shakespeare. (Scott G. Brown, The Letter to Theodore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Clement’s Authorship, JECS 16:4, 2008. He refers to Ronald Thisted, Bradley Efron, Did Shakespeare Write a Newly-Discovered Poem? Biometrika 74, 1987, 445–455)

11. A work of Christian fiction, entitled The Mystery of Mar Saba, by James H. Hunter, was originally published in 1940 but frequently reprinted afterwards. The story revolved around the discovery of a revolutionary, ancient text in the monastery of Mar Saba that turned out to be a forgery (the Gospel Hoax, page 19). The forgery in the book is discovered by a scholar while he was cataloguing the manuscripts there. The Mystery of Mar Saba mentions the rolling away of stones and of linen clothing. It appears that Morton Smith modelled his hoax on the book.

The similarities between Smith’s discovery and James Hogg Hunter’s novel from 1940 are just imaginary similarities. The purported similarity between The Clement letter and Hunter’s novel is based on mathematically flawed statistics. You need to take into account every other novel that has been written before 1958, because if you start by looking for a novel with a content that resembles the Clement letter and its discovery, the chance of finding one that shares some similarities rapidly increases with the number of books you put into the calculation. If you’re allowed to use the whole world literature with its vast number of novels counted in hundreds of thousand or perhaps millions, the chance of finding a novel which at least superficially resembles the finding of Clement’s letter, seems to be fairly high.

Further you have to take into account that they both are, and are relying upon, Gospel material, and therefore are bound to show similarities. Further the purported similarity that both are forgeries made at Mar Saba is not to be dealt with in a statistical analysis, since the suggestion that The Clement letter actually is a forgery cannot be part of any parallels when in fact this very issue is the thing that is proposed and therefore the object of the investigation. If that is put into the calculation, it will be part of a circular reasoning. The question we should ask ourselves is if we were to take any event in modern history and tried to find a novel written before that event with a content that resembles it, would we likely come up with a parallel?

Francis Watson

Francis Watson

As Francis Watson in the article, Beyond Suspicion: on the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark (JTS 61, 2010, 128-170), further elaborates on these purported similarities, and since I have already examined some of his claims, I chose to direct my critique at Watson instead of Carlson in this point onwards; although the critique is valid also for Carlson.

After Francis Watson has summarized the plot of Hunter’s novel, he says: “Thus far, the parallel with Smith’s Mar Saba discovery is intriguing but inexact.” Yes, because the only real similarity he presents is the place of Mar Saba, where of course you could make a discovery of this magnitude and also a place you easily would chose in a novel for the same reason. And there is no similarity that both documents are forged (as he suggests), since we do not know that To Theodoros is forged and as I said, one cannot simply assume that and use this as evidence when the actual issue is whether or not it is forged. If so it is a circular reasoning.

Then of course it was no secret that most manuscripts had been carried off to Jerusalem and that Morton Smith therefore would not have had any great expectations to make a major discovery. Watson writes that the “Nicodemus fragment and the letter to Theodore are discovered in similar circumstances narrated in similar language.” But what kinds of parallels are there really when Watson in Hunter’s novel finds that Sir William Bracebridge at a meeting back in London uses the word reconciled, while Smith wrote that he was reconciling himself; both to something negative, yet expressed differently? Really far-fetched! If you search for these kinds of similarities, you are bound to find some. Besides, there really are no “similar circumstances”.

Watson also claims that the “two Mar Saba discoveries are … similar in content.” To show this he says that in both cases a “short but sensational excerpt of an early text is discovered”. Now seriously, this is really generally expressed. What else could they find? In Smith’s case he did find many non-sensational finds and this one was the sensational one. Are we then to suppose that he forged it because of this? Or shall we believe that he was inspired by Hunter to produce a sensational text?

Further Watson claims that the discovery was made “together with a text or texts dating from the second century (manuscripts of Hermas and Barnabas, and of the letter to Theodore, respectively).” This is not entirely correct. It is (as far as I can see) never said in the novel that The Shepherd of Hermas and The Epistle of Barnabas are from the second century and as you probably all know, they could be from the first century. In the novel there are three separate documents, one for each book; and the third, The Shred of Nicodemus, is dated to the first century. This Shred of Nicodemus is never said to be “short” and is for sure no excerpt from a letter of Clement. So The Shred of Nicodemus is not short, not necessarily found together with a text or texts dating from the second century and there are separate documents found. The Mar Saba letter on the other hand is only one letter, with two short excerpts from Secret Mark and the letter could well have been written by Clement in the third century.

But the real problem lies in the causality. We are supposed to believe that Smith read a poor apologetic spy novel, got inspired to make a forgery in a similar fashion, which includes having a similar name as the Chief of the London police, Lord Moreton, a minor character being introduced late in the story, then started to study different fields in order to acquire the competence needed for the task. He then managed to get permission to visit Mar Saba, in spite of their restrictions, in order to plant his forgery. As I understand it Smith was given a special permission as a personal gesture to catalogue books at Mar Saba. What are the odds that someone being inspired by a novel to make a forgery at Mar Saba, also would get permission to examine manuscripts at Mar Saba? Because, one needs to assume that this was the causality in this context.

I would say that the only reasonable influence by the book on Smith, would be if he saw the title and came up with the idea to make a forgery and plant it at Mar Saba, as he was planning on going there anyway. But then he just as easily could have come up with that idea for a number of other reasons.

12. Bart Ehrman noted the significant humor of Theodore being found into the flyleaves of Epistolae genuinae S. Ignatii Martyris, Isaac Voss, 1646. This is ironic because the book concerns itself with forgeries. (page 20).

Vossius’ book was the first edition where the “forged” letters of Ignatius were excluded. Further at the end of the book Vossius also comments upon interpolations found in the Epistle of Barnabas. The next page was then the previous blank page onto which the first page of the Clement letter was inscribed. Ehrman saw it as ironic that the letter found by Smith was inscribed in a book which concerned itself with forgeries.

Bart D. Ehrman

Bart D. Ehrman

This is really hard to refute, as there is nothing substantial involved in the claim made by Ehrman. Sure it might seem intriguing that the letter was inscribed in this particular book – but only if also Clement’s letter to Theodoros is a forgery and its author decided to leave an ironic clue behind. As I said previously, since we have no proof that the letter is a forgery; there is no connection between someone dealing with forgeries and the Clement letter. Besides, I guess that most editions of ancient authors’ collected works also deals with the issue of authenticity. And if the letter would have been inscribed in another book, I am sure that it would deal with something else which also could be made to look suspicious – if you are out looking for clues – being a “clue hunter”. Ehrman himself is cautious not to make too much out of this, and I think that this is wise.

13. SC identifies within Secret Mark support for Morton Smith’s own previous works.

a. The coupling of ”the mystery of the kingdom of God” with a forbidden sexual relationship supports Smith’s earlier linkage in 1951 of Mark 4:11 with forbidden sexual relationships (page 81).
b. The similarity of Secret Mark to the Lazarus story in GJohn supports Smith’s 1955 contention that Mark used a ”source with Johannine traits”.

Stephen C. Carlson

Stephen C. Carlson

Carlson claims that Smith coupled “the mystery of the kingdom of God” with a forbidden sexual relationship already in 1951 as he linked Clement to both Mark 4:11 and T Hagigah 2.1 and thereby to a forbidden sexual relationship. But Smith never made that link. The only link that can be found is in the notes which say:

*  Hagigah 2.1 and parallels.

** Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 1.1.13–14 etc.

Mark 4:11 is not mentioned here. Smith only compares the rabbinic conception of the throne of God to Clement’s secrecy. The forbidden sexual relation is missing. The only link is two consecutive footnotes, and really, how much can one make out of that? After all Smith was a scholar who dealt with Christianity. What can we make out of the fact that he a few times referred to Clement, a few times quoted from the gospel of Mark?

I believe this has been thoroughly refuted by Scott Brown in his article Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Morton Smith (Harvard Theological Review 99:0303, 291-327). In order for Carlson’s assertion to be valid, both Hagigah 2:1 and The letter of Clement 1:12 should be about forbidden sexual relations and Smith have intended to make such a connection. But this was not the case. I just settle for quoting what Smith actually wrote:

“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 1 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.” (Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 1951, s. 155–156)

Again, those who can manage Swedish can always read my more thorough evaluation of this in Är Klemensbrevet designat för att spegla Morton Smiths föreställningar?

14. SC notes that apparently free flowing salt adulterated by adding another ingredient is an anachronism. See page 60.

a. ”Morton” salt is considered a confession. (This could be a mere coincidence). However, if this is true, then Secret Mark is salted with clues.

According to Carlson the letter’s reference to the teaching on salt losing its savor, is premised on an image of mixing table salt with an adulterant that changes its flavor. This should be another of those clues which Carlson claims that Smith left to show that it was he who forged the text. Carlson writes: “For salt to be mixed with such an adulterant, it would have to be loose and free-flowing, but free-flowing salt is a modern invention.” It thereby would be an anachronism and since Morton Salt Company was the first ever to make free-flowing salt, Morton Salt of course is just a pseudonym for Morton Smith. But in order to make this assumption, Carlson of course needs to claim that Clement actually wrote about mixing salt with an adulterant (or mixing it at all). And the text does not say so. It says that “the true things” which the Carpocratians speaks of – not the salt – are mixed with inventions. It never says that the salt is mixed with anything, and so the clue is no clue at all. Then of course this is a quote from the Bible and contrary to Carlson’s statement, salt could be mixed with other ingredients. This Kyle Smith showed beyond doubt in his article ‘Mixed with Inventions’: Salt and Metaphor in Secret Mark. He writes:

Hershel Shanks

Hershel Shanks

“Salt could be (and was) both mixed and adulterated in antiquity, and to suggest that salt could not be mixed unless it is free-flowing salt with anti-caking agents added to it is belied by numerous ancient and modern references.”

And Hershel Shanks strengthened this by quoting from the Talmud, where it is said that salt can be mixed with other ingredients. He says: “In antiquity salt was regularly mixed with other substances.” (Hershel Shanks, Restoring a Dead Scholar’s Reputation, Biblical Archaeology Review, November/December 2009, 60.

15. According to SC, M.Smith also buries a reference to ”Smith” in the commentary on the text, Jeremiah 28:17. This is also considered a confession. (This could also be a coincidence).

Carlson’s claims that Smith apart from leaving the clue of the salt in Morton Salt company, also buried a reference to “Smith” in the commentary on the text, Jeremiah 28:17 from LXX (= Hebr. 10:14) where it is said that “every person is made dull from knowledge … because they have cast false things, there is no breath in them.” But, according to Carlson, “the linkage to Matthew 5:13’s use of ‘cast out’ works only in English, not in Greek.” Then Carlson suggests that Smith associated two words in English which in the original Greek has no connection. However, Smith never translated the Greek from Jeremiah. The translation was presented by Carlson. And there is nothing that shows that Smith ever made a connection between the “cast false things” in Jeremiah and the “cast out” in Matthew.

Scott Brown dealt with this in his article Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Morton Smith (Harvard Theological Review 99:0303, 291-327), and summarizes the issue in these words:

“Since the only commonality Carlson could perceive between Matt 5:13b and the quotation from Jeremiah was the verb ‘cast’ in his own English translation, Carlson deduced that Smith made an unthinkable exegetical error.
“Apparently Carlson did not consider the possibility that the parallelism with Matt 5:13b exists not in the words Smith quoted from Jeremiah but in the continuation of this verse indicated by “(and ff)” at the end of Smith’s quotation. …
“In other words, the parallels Smith perceived involved not only the context of the Greek words that he quoted from Matthew and Luke but also the context of the Greek words he quoted from Jeremiah. It had nothing to do with the English word ‘cast.’”

16. Theodore and Secret Mark are almost too good to be true.

a. The cliff hanger right at the end is extemely convinient. If any more was revealed about Clement’s alleged secret gnostic doctrine, the harder it would be to defend.
b. Jesus is so gay that no only is it said he loves the youth and the youth loves him, but he will have nothing to do with three women.

I do not know how to refute a statement that the letter and Secret Mark are almost too good to be true. I do not know what Carlson means with the word “good”. The cliff hanger at the end is strange, but as Charlie Hedrick puts it in an email to me: “It really is not possible to know why the letter ends where it does—unless you happened to be there at the time of the writing/copying”. It is therefore impossible to know why it ended just as the true interpretation was about to be revealed. Yet, if we are to believe what the letter says, the true interpretation was only meant to be given to the initiated ones, and if someone (Clement, Theodoros or their friends) decided to save the letter for posterity, then it is reasonable that the true interpretation was cut off from the letter so that those not worthy would not get hold of this interpretation.

That Jesus would be so gay that not only is it said he loves the youth and the youth loves him, but he will have nothing to do with three women, I do find to be rather comical, and I chose not to refute it since it basically is “irrefutable”, yet funny.

Roger Viklund, 2011-01-30

The pastiche forgery of Secret Mark, as presented by Francis Watson

Francis Watson

Francis Watson

Francis Watson, professor of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Durham, has in an article from April this year, Beyond Suspicion: on the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark (JTS 61, 2010, 128-170), concluded that Clement’s letter to Theodoros “is manifestly pseudonymous” and that “it is clear that the author of this letter is Morton Smith”.

Most of that which Watson deals with is old stuff, arguments presented by others before. In the Swedish blog post Är Klemensbrevet designat för att spegla Morton Smiths föreställningar? I examined Watson’s chapter on the letter in twentieth-century context, and his elaboration on Carlson’s ideas that Smith already held the same positions as those being presented in the letter.

This time I shall focus upon another old argument which Raymond E. Brown dealt with already in the 1970s and since then has been recycled by many, for instance by Per Beskow. As Watson explains it:

“It has often been suggested that Clement’s excerpts from the Secret Gospel are a mere mosaic or collage, drawing from mainly Markan phraseology to create a new narrative loosely related to the Lazarus story.”

While R. E. Brown seems to have taken this to indicate an ancient pastiche forgery, Watson must believe that Morton Smith cut and pasted from mainly the Gospel of Mark in order to create the first Secret Mark passage within the Clement letter.

Watson continues:

“The Secret Gospel passages comprise 14 sense-units (phrases or sentences) distributed evenly throughout the pericope. The Markan and other synoptic parallels have contributed 66 of its 157 words, in sequences of between three and ten words. A minimum of 32 of the remaining words are employed to complete the sense-units in question. That leaves just five sentences out of account, which tell of Jesus’ departure to the tomb; the voice heard from the tomb; Jesus’ entry into the tomb and his stretching out his hand; the departure to the young man’s home; and the night spent together. These sentences are full of synoptic language, but they are not dependent on synoptic word-sequences. … The pericope would seem to be the work of an author determined to pattern his own work on mainly Markan phraseology.”

Watson presents a chart on the parallels, and below I have elaborated on that chart. The examples presented in English are Watson’s own, and I have expanded upon them by including the Greek text and also underneath each example given more parallels from the Gospel of Mark; then in the first place not meant to be parallels to the sentences from Secret Mark, but parallels to the parallels presented by Watson.

Secret Gospel Secret Gospel Synoptic Gospels Synoptic Gospels
And they come to Bethany . . . καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς βηθανίαν And they come to Bethany. (Mark 8:22) Καὶ ἔρχεταί εἰς Βηθσαϊδάν
    And they come to the house of the ruler of the synagogue (Mark 5:38) καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς τὸν οἶκον
    And they come to Jericho (Mark 10:46) Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἰεριχώ
    And they come to Jerusalem (Mark 11:15) Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα
    And they come unto a place which was named Gethsemane (Mark 14:32) Καὶ ἔρχονται εἰς χωρίον οὗ τὸ ὄνομα Γεθσημανῆ
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And there was there a woman . . . καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ μία γυνὴ And there was there a man . . . (Mark 3:1) καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπος
    And he was there in the wilderness (Mark 1:13) καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ υἱὲ Δαβὶδ ἐλέησόν με Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ (Mark 10:47) ὑιὸς Δαβὶδ Ἰησοῦ ἐλέησόν με
    son of David, have mercy on me (Mark 10:48) Υἱὲ Δαβίδ, ἐλέησόν με
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And his disciples rebuked her . . . οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμησαν αὐτῇ· And his disciples rebuked them. (Mark 10:13) δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐπετίμων τοῖς προσφέρουσιν
    And Jesus rebuked him (Mark 1:25) καὶ ἐπετίμησεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς
    And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. (8:32) καὶ προσλαβόμενος αὐτὸν ὁ Πέτρος ἤρξατο ἐπιτιμᾶν αὐτῷ
    But he turning about, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter (8:33) ὁ δὲ ἐπιστραφεὶς καὶ ἰδὼν τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἐπετίμησεν τῷ Πέτρῳ
    And many rebuked him (10:48) καὶ ἐπετίμων αὐτῷ πολλοὶ
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And Jesus came and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb . . . καὶ προσελθὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπεκύλισε τὸν λίθον ἀπὸ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου And he came and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. (Matt. 28:2) προσελθὼν ἀπεκύλισεν τὸν λίθον ἀπὸ τῆς θύρας
`Who shall roll away for us the stone from the door of the tomb?’ (Mark 16:3) Τίς ἀποκυλίσει ἡμῖν τὸν λίθον ἐκ τῆς θύρας τοῦ μνημείου
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
He raised him, taking him by the hand . . . ἐξέτεινεν τὴν χεῖρα καὶ ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν· κρατήσας τῆς χειρός He raised her, taking her by the hand. (Mark 1:31) ἤγειρεν αὐτὴν κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῆς
    And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. (Mark 5:41) καὶ κρατήσας τῆς χειρὸς τοῦ παιδίου λέγει αὐτῇ Ταλιθα κοῦμι ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον Τὸ κοράσιον σοὶ λέγω ἔγειραι
    But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up. (Mark 9:27) ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς κρατήσας αὐτόν τῆς χειρὸς ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
looking at him he loved him, ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν looking at him he loved him (Mark 10:21) ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν
    And Jesus looking upon them (Mark 10:27) ἐμβλέψας δὲ αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς
    she looked upon him (Mark 14:67) ἐμβλέψασα αὐτῷ
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
and began to beg him that he might be with him καὶ ἤρξατο παρακαλεῖν αὐτὸν ἵνα μετ’ αὐτοῦ ᾖ and begged him that he might be with him . . . (Mark 5:18) παρεκάλει αὐτὸν ὁ δαιμονισθεὶς ἵνα ᾖ μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ
    And he besought him much that he would not send them away (Mark 5:10) παρεκάλει αὐτὸν πολλὰ ἵνα μὴ αὐτοὺς ἀποστείλῃ ἔξω τῆς χώρας
    And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. (Mark 5:17) καὶ ἤρξαντο παρακαλεῖν αὐτὸν ἀπελθεῖν ἀπὸ τῶν ὁρίων αὐτῶν
    and besought him to touch him (Mark 8:22) παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα αὐτοῦ ἅψηται
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
for he was rich. ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος for he was very rich (Luke 18:23) ἦν γὰρ πλούσιος σφόδρα
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And after six days . . . καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέρας ἓξ And after six days . . . (Mark 9:2) Καὶ μεθ᾽ ἡμέρας ἓξ
    and after three days (Mark 8:31) καὶ μετὰ τρεῖς ἡμέρας
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And when it was evening [he] comes . . . καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης And when it was evening he comes (Mark 14:17) Καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης ἔρχεται
    And the same day, when the evening was come (Mark 4:35) Καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης
    And when it was evening (Mark 6:47) καὶ ὀψίας γενομένης
    And now when the evening was come (Mark 15:42) Καὶ ἤδη ὀψίας γενομένης
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
dressed in a linen garment over his nakedness περιβεβλημένος σινδόνα ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ dressed in a linen garment over his nakedness (Mark 14:51) περιβεβλημένος σινδόνα ἐπὶ γυμνοῦ
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
the mystery of the kingdom of God . . . τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11) τὸ μυστήριον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ
    the gospel of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14) τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ
    the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15, 4:26, 10:14) ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ
    the kingdom of God (Mark 4:30, 9:1, 9:47, 10:15, 10:23, 10:24, 10:25, 15:43) τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ
    the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34) τῆς βασιλείας τοῦ θεοῦ
    the kingdom of God (Mark 14:25) τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
And leaving there he returned to across-the-Jordan. ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἀναστὰς; ἐπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου And leaving there he comes to the regions of Judea and across-the-Jordan (Mark 10:1) Κακεῖθεν ἀναστὰς ἔρχεται εἰς τὰ ὅρια τῆς Ἰουδαίας διὰ τοῦ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου
    And from there he arose and went to the region (Mark 7:24) καὶ Ἐκεῖθεν ἀναστὰς ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τὰ μεθόρια

For quite a long time I have been unimpressed by the argument of a pastiche gospel. Not so much for finding parallels to the other gospels (which is a legitimate objection), but for finding parallels to the Gospel of Mark. How odd could it be that “Mark” is able to imitate himself? With that kind of reasoning, we would suspect that every time Mark uses a similar construction as one he has used before, that part is a later addition done by someone trying to imitate Mark. This is also the point I want to make by presenting more parallels.

Having dealt quite a lot lately with the Testimonium Flavianum in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews, (see my Swedish treatise Jesuspassagerna hos Josefus – en fallstudie) one would then suspect all of the Testimonium to be a forgery, simply on the basis that almost everything can be paralleled in Josephus’ own writings. On the contrary, this fact is instead used to argue that the Testimonium is written by Josephus, as expressions like “about this time” or “wise man” are common to Josephus’ way of expressing himself. I have never heard anyone argue that simply because Josephus begins the next paragraph after the Testimonium with “and about this time” the beginning of the Testimonium is also a forgery. Why should we then believe this when it comes to the first Secret Mark passage?

I will now examine each sentence one by one.

1)      “And they come to Bethany” is almost exactly paralleled by Mark 8:22. But then it is exactly paralleled by Mark 10:46, 11:15 and 14:32, apart from the fact that they there are said to come to Jericho, Jerusalem and Gethsemane, respectively. And there is also an almost exact parallel in Mark 5:38, when they come to the house of the ruler of the synagogue.

2)      “And there was there a woman“ is paralleled by “And there was there a man” in Mark 3:1. The three identical words are “καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ”, which also are to be found in Mark 1:13, yet with a slightly different meaning.

3)      ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ has a parallel in Mark 10:47, however with a slightly different wording. There is also a parallel to the next sentence in Mark 10:48 which by the way happens to be an exact parallel.

4)      “And his disciples rebuked her” is paralleled by Mark 10:13: “And his disciples rebuked them.” The Greek is similar. But then there is a lot of rebuking, although not by the disciples as a group. Jesus, Peter and “many” are rebuking “him” respectively Peter.

5)      “And Jesus came and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb”. Here Watson finds a parallel to the Gospel of Matthew, which of course is quite interesting: “And he came and rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb.” (Matt. 28:2). If there is a parallel to the Gospel of Matthew, “Mark” could not possibly have been influenced by it, since he wrote earlier. The Greek is close to identical between the two sentences, yet there is no “of the tomb” in the Greek of Matthew’s passage as Watson claims. Watson explains this by saying that “of the tomb” is “a minority reading”. On the other hand, the sentence in the Gospel of Mark which “Matthew” is relying on in fact has “of the tomb”. The slightly different inflection in the passage in Mark depends on the fact that the sentence is formulated as a question in Mark. It is therefore more likely that Mark again is imitating himself.

6)      “He raised him, taking him by the hand” is paralleled by Mark 1:31: “He raised her, taking her by the hand.” There are five Greek words with almost similar inflection.  There are also two other close parallels (though not as close as in 1:31, but then Watson got to chose his parallels first) in Mark 5:41 and 9:27, where Jesus takes people by their hands and asks them to rise. It is really just the order of the words that differs.

7)      “looking at him he loved him” is paralleled by Mark 10:21. There are four identical Greek words. This has no other parallel in Mark, as Jesus or others are never elsewhere said to love another person. Nevertheless, the opening words “looking at him” is paralleled both in Mark 10:27 and Mark 14:67 with only a slightly different inflection.

8)      “and began to beg him that he might be with him”. This is paralleled by Mark 5:18: “and begged him that he might be with him . . .”. The Greek is quite similar though the verb has a different conjugation. This is fairly closely paralleled in Mark 5:10 and to a lesser degree in Mark 5:17 and 8:22.

9)      “for he was rich.” Here Watson turns to Luke 18:23 and the rich youth: “for he was very rich”. They share three identical words in Greek. There is no further parallel in Mark. Firstly can be said that in order to say that someone was rich, there is really not that many ways to express this. Secondly, in this passage Luke is dependant on Mark and the information that the youth was rich is therefore an addition made by Luke. Or is it? Could it be that the copy of Mark which Luke had access to, also said that the youth was rich? This is not entirely impossible, since there seems to be a close affinity between this “rich” youth and the rich youth being raised by Jesus in the Secret Mark passage. If so, Mark is again imitating himself.

10)  “And after six days” is identically paralleled by Mark 9:2. No other parallels of six days exist. Yet there is one where it says “three days”: “and after three days” (Mark 8:31).

11)  “And when it was evening [he] comes”. Three words in Greek are paralleled in Mark 14:17. The same three words are also paralleled in Mark 6:47 and in 15:42.

12)  “dressed in a linen garment over his nakedness” is exactly paralleled in Mark 14:51. There are no other parallels in Mark. This really comes as no surprise as this is quite a specific subject. Mark 14:51 with the youth being torn off his linen garment is, as is the “rich” youth in Mark 10:17–22, often seen as the same youth being raised by Jesus in the Secret Mark passage. It would therefore come as no surprise if “Mark” used the same language in describing him.

13)  “the mystery of the kingdom of God” is exactly paralleled by Mark 4:11, and by no other passage. But “the kingdom of God” occur on several occasions, and Mark 1:14 reads “the gospel of the kingdom of God“. Apart from μυστήριον being replaced by εὐαγγέλιον it reads exactly the same in Greek.

14)  “And leaving there he returned to across-the-Jordan.” This is paralleled by Mark 10:1: “And leaving there he comes to the regions of Judea and across-the-Jordan”. This is the only other time Jesus is said to cross the Jordan, and the crossing of Jordan is therefore not paralleled anywhere else in Mark. But the rest is paralleled in Mark 7:24.

Summary

Francis Watson

Francis Watson

In the end, all of this boils down to “Mark” imitating himself. Watson came first and got to choose the closest parallels, but the examples I have presented are not far off. I managed to find parallels to almost all of Watson’s parallels, whereas he only found parallels to the Secret Mark passage at a rate of 42% [66/157] or if I am being generous 53% [66/(157 – 32)]. As can be seen, the author of the Gospel of Mark is writing quite stereotyped and often expresses himself in a similar way, which of course might be explained by Greek not being his native language.

Francis Watson claims that the fact that many expressions in the first Secret Mark passage can be paralleled in the Gospel of Mark shows that someone has produced the Secret Mark passage by combining passages from the Gospel of Mark and thereby has created a new text. In the name of consequence, this would mean that also every other parallel that is (to a great extent) found in Mark, would be additions made to the Gospel of Mark by a later imitator.

I would say that the fact that the Secret Mark passage so much resembles other expressions found in the Gospel of Mark speaks for authenticity – not against authenticity!

Roger Viklund, 2010-09-05

Är Klemensbrevet designat för att spegla Morton Smiths föreställningar?

I ett mejl blev jag tillfrågad om jag ville kommentera signaturen Loren Rosson III:s blogginlägg Beyond Suspicion, Beyond Doubt: Secret Mark Put to Rest där han bland annat skriver följande:

”What has most astounded me in the Secret Mark controversy is that, prior to Stephen Carlson, no one picked up on the fact that Smith published ideas connecting Clement and ”the mystery of the kingdom of God” (in Mk 4:11) to sexual immorality (in T. Hagigah 2:1), and that he published them before his alleged discovery in 1958. Watson takes this further, showing how Smith had already believed (by 1955) that Mark censored offensive material out of his gospel, some of which he thought common to Mark and John, and that there was a secrecy tradition (of esoteric mysteries and sexual immorality) extending from Mark back to Paul and Jesus, to which he finally (in early 1958) connected Clement as a witness:”

Med tanke på de våldsamt överdrivna slutsatserna, som att Stephen Carlson, Peter Jeffery och Francis Watson formar en trilogi som …

convicts Morton Smith beyond doubt as the forger of Clement’s letter, just in case you were too blind to accept the obvious after reading Carlson.

 … har jag beslutat mig för att ta upp dessa påståenden till granskning.

En av Stephen Carlsons mer “kluriga” ledtrådar har att göra med Smiths egna föreställningar kontra de i Klemensbrevet. Enligt Carlson handlar Klemensbrevet om mysterier, hemligheter och förbjuden sexualitet, alltså homosexualitet. Dessa tre faktorer anser han vara budskapet i brevet. Jag och många med mig ifrågasätter starkt den tolkningen, bland annat har jag svårt att finna några sexuella anspelningar alls däri. Och finns det inga sexuella anspelningar i brevet faller Carlsons kopplingar genast.

I vilket fall har Carlson letat i Morton Smiths texter för att kunna belägga att dessa tre områden också intresserade Morton Smith och det helst innan Smith upptäckte Klemens’ brev till Theodoros år 1958. Tanken är att visa att Smith skapade brevet och då förde fram de ideer han redan tidigare haft och gett uttryck för. Carlson säger sig också ha funnit belägg för detta. I Morton Smiths bok Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels från 1951 kopplar Smith enligt Carlson samman Markus 4:11 (”Han sade: ’Ni har fått veta Guds rikes hemlighet, men för dessa som står utanför är allt bara liknelser”) med en text ur Mishna i Talmud, Hagigah Tannaïm 2.1, som enligt Carlson handlar om förbjudna sexuella förhållanden. Därutöver finner Carlson en artikel från 1958, The Image of God, alltså från 7 år senare, där Smith ska ha kopplat hemlighetsfullhet till samma Hagigah Tannaïm och dessutom till Klemens av Alexandria i hans bok Stromata. Så här skriver Stephen Carlson:

“The sexual innuendo that made Secret Mark such an interesting and potentially momentous find is now part of what identifies it as a modern fake, but it also does more than that—it is also Morton Smith’s own sphragis that declares his authorship by alluding to his previous works. The climax of the nocturnal initiation of Secret Mark contains a juxtaposition of Mark 4:11 and a sexual practice forbidden in Jewish law (Lev 18:22, 20:13) and is embedded in a letter by Clement of Alexandria exhorting secrecy. These elements had already been connected to each other in Smith’s publications before the summer of 1958.” (Stephen Carlson, The Gospel Hoax, s. 71)

Därigenom anser Carlson att kopplingen mellan Klemensbrevet och Smith är gjord.

I en artikel från april i år, Beyond Suspicion: on the Authorship of the Mar Saba Letter and the Secret Gospel of Mark, spinner professorn i teologi och religion vid universitet i Durham, Francis Watson, vidare på Carlsons spår. Han skriver bland annat att Morton Smith 1952 visade intresse för Markusevangeliet genom en kommentar till Vincent Taylors kommentar till Markusevangeliet. Detta ska enligt Watson visa att Smith hade nödig kunskap om Markusevangeliets komposition för att kunna förfalska brevet. Enligt Watson hade Smith år 1955 skrivit också en fientlig recension av Taylors verk, där han framkastat möjligheten att Markus kan ha censurerat sådant material som han fann problematiskt, vilket då skulle stämma överens med det som påstås i Klemensbrevet. Där sägs ju Markus ha skrivit två evangelier, ett för folket och ett för de utvalda. Markus var enligt Smith:

“remote from the historical situation [of Jesus’ ministry], 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.”

Watsons påstående att “Smith envisages the possibility that Mark may have ‘deliberately censored’ material in his sources that he finds problematic” motsägs dock av det citat han ger, där Smith faktiskt bara säger att Markus kan ha utelämnat sådant som han fann ointressant eller av ringa intresse för hans kyrka och att i så fall han INTE medvetet har censurerat något.

Watson repeterar också Carlsons påståenden genom att åberopa Smiths artikel från 1958, där Smith enligt Watson citerar Klemens som vittne till en hemlig tradition. Smith har i fotnoterna med bland annat m Hagigah 2:1 och Klemens, Stromateis, i.1.13–14.

I artikeln Factualizing the Folklore: Stephen Carlson’s Case against Morton Smith, Harvard Theological Review 99:0303, 291-327, som jag i detta inlägg i hög grad förlitar mig på, skriver Scott G. Brown att förutsättningen för att Carlsons argument ska gälla är att Hagigah 2:1 och Klemensbrevet 1:12 handlar om förbjudna sexuella relationer och att Smith avsåg att göra denna koppling i sin avhandling. I annat fall råkade Hagigah 2.1 bara vara något han nämnde en gång i samma textomgivning som Mark 4:11–12 och igen några år senare i samband med att han nämnde Klemens ovilja att skriva ner hemlig undervisning. Jag tänker här inte beröra frågan om de påstådda sexuella relationerna i Klemensbrevet utan nöja mig med att konstatera att inget alls sägs om något sexuellt i brevet. Jag får i så fall ta upp den saken i ett annat inlägg.

Frågan som gäller är därför: Har den koppling som Carlson säger sig ha funnit mellan Hagigah 2.1 och Mark 4:11–12 i Smiths verk något samband med förbjudna sexuella relationer? Låt oss nu se vad Smith egentligen skrev:

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 1 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.” (Morton Smith, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, 1951, s. 155–156)

Vad Smith argumenterar för i detta stycke är att såväl de kristna som de rabbiner som sammanställde Mishna, gjorde skillnad på esoterisk (inre) och exoterisk (yttre) undervisning. ”A similar distinction [som den som de kristna gjorde] was recognized by the Tannaïm”. Som namnet på hans bok antyder ville Smith visa på paralleller mellan rabbinska (Tannaic) och evangeliska föreställningar och i detta fall handlar det om att de båda gör skillnad på inre och yttre undervisning. För att belägga sitt påstående om att så sker i NT citerar Smith 1 Kor 2-6 och Mark 4:11–12. För att belägga sitt påstående om att också rabbinerna gör denna skillnad citerar Smith ur T. Hagigah.

I Stephen Carlsons citat av passagen ovan klippte han av den strax efter att ”forbidden sexual relationships” nämns och fick det därmed att framstå som detta med sexualiteten hade något direkt med det föregående om skillnaden mellan esoterisk och exoterisk undervisning att göra. I Carlsons citat saknades uppgifterna som följer om skapelseberättelsen och Hesekiels vision av vagnen, vilken är att betrakta som Guds tron. Men det är dessa sistnämnda detaljer som utgör det bevis Smith eftersöker för att påvisa skillnaden mellan det esoteriska och exoteriska. Just skapelsen och Hesekiels vision av Gud utgör gudomens största hemlighet. Därmed har Smith belagt det han vill ha belagt.

Att ”passagerna i GT som handlar om förbjuden kärlek” (de som uppräknas i framför allt 3 Mosebok, som incest, samlag under kvinnans menstruation, homosexualitet, äktenskapsbrott, etc.) råkade komma med handlade bara om att de utgjorde del av citatet och inte gärna går att plocka bort ur citatet då detta i så fall kan te sig obegripligt.

Men för Smith saknar den förbjudna kärleken all betydelse i detta sammanhang, är inte del av hans resonemang och är ingenting som han kopplar samman med Guds mysterium. Smith gör helt enkelt ingen koppling alls mellan förbjudna sexuella relationer och det Guds mysterium som omtalas i Mark 4:11–12. Scott Brown skriver:

Carlson’s attempt to associate Smith’s reference to “the mystery of the kingdom of God” in Tannaitic Parallels with forbidden sexual relations makes nonsense of the fact that in the same book Smith associated possession of this mystery with increased virtue.

Det är alltså dygden och inte den sexuella relationen som Smith kopplar samman med Guds mysterium.

Det andra åberopade stycket hos Smith förekommer som sagt i hans artikel från 1958. Det lyder i Browns återgivning:

“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. 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.’ 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,* and quite possibly was not committed to writing.** However, the saying has an almost exact parallel in the common Christian expression, theophoroi pateres, of which the active and passive senses are not to be separated.”

Om man nu noga läser detta stycke där Carlson säger att Smith kopplade samman Klemens med både Mark 4:11 och T Hagigah 2.1 (The Gospel Hoax, s. 72) kan man se att Smith aldrig gjorde en sådan koppling. Den enda koppling som kan sägas finnas, finns i fotnoterna vilka lyder:

*  Hagigah 2.1 and parallels.
** Cf. Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 1.1.13–14 etc.

Notera dock att Mark 4:11 aldrig nämns. Smith jämför bara den rabbinska föreställningen om Guds tron med Klemens’ hemlighetsfullhet. Den förbjudna sexuella relationen som skulle förekomma saknas. Och handen på hjärtat, hur mycket samband uppnås av två på varandra följande fotnoter? Watson går än längre och citerar ett längre stycke ur T Hagigah (som ju Smith inte citerade) för att försöka visa att där finns en koppling till Klemens’ ”gudomliga mysterier”. Och jag säger bara, snälla ni … vad finns där för koppling att göra?

Jag kan inte se annat än att man dammsuger allt Smith har skrivit för att lyckas hitta några ord som går att tolka som att han skulle ha förfalskat Klemens’ brev till Theodoros. Men hur märkvärdigt är det att en framstående kristendomsforskare har behandlat Markusevangeliet och citerat Klemens av Alexandria några gånger? Hur märkvärdigt är det att en framstående judendomsforskare åberopat Talmud? Hur märkvärdigt är det att det en produktiv författare någon gång råkat behandla dessa ämnen i samma stycke och hur konstigt är det att två på varandra följande fotnoter berör två skilda ämnen som Hagigah och Klemens, samt att de respektive styckena berör ämnen som mysterier och hemligheter, vilket ju tekniskt sett är detsamma?

Roger Viklund, 2010-08-08