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

Allan J. Pantuck

Allan J. Pantuck

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

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

Pantuck continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images of these two pages were also published:

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

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

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

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

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

Agamemnon Tselikas

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

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

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

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

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-20

Another Ancient text which stated that Jesus went to The Mount of Olives and told his followers about the Kingdom of God.

When David Blocker and I wrote the article A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?, we also had some material which we for different reasons decided not to include. One was a 9th century Old Saxon text called The Heliand, which I primarily rejected because Bethany is never mentioned in the text. But all the same, the text presents Jesus teaching the Kingdom of God in the vicinity of Bethany and it therefore gives some sort of parallel. It should of course anyway be made public, and hence I let David Blocker reveal what is said in the Heliand. Over to David …

Another Ancient text which stated that Jesus went to The Mount of Olives and told his followers about the Kingdom of God.

The Heliand (”Saviour”) is an epic poem in Old Saxon, written in the first half of the 9th century.  The poem is a paraphrase of the Bible that recounts the life of Jesus in the style of a Germanic saga.  The poem is probably derived from the Diatessaron, a Gospel Harmony that was based on early versions of the Canonical Gospels.

The following passage is an excerpt from the English language translation of the Heliand.

There was a great mountain nearby outside the hill fort (Jerusalem). It was broad and high and beautiful.  The Jewish people called it Olivet by name.  Christ the Redeemer went up the mountain then with his followers, and the night surrounded him sothat none of the Jews really knew he had been there, when as light came from the east, he stood at the shrine, the chieftain of the people.  There he stood receiving groups of people and telling them so much in the words of truth that there is not a single person in this world , here in the middle realm so clever- not one of the sons of men- who could ever get to the end of those teachings which the Ruler spoke at the altar in the shrine.  He always told them with his word that they should get themselves ready for the Kingdom of God, every human being should, so that on that great day they will be honored by their Chieftain.” (The Heliand: the Saxon Gospel.  A translation and commentary by G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., Oxford University Press, 1992.  p. 129) (underlining added for emphasis)

In summary: Jesus left the Temple to spend the night on the Mt. of Olives.  He was with his followers.  Early in the morning, he taught about the Kingdom of God.

This text in the Heliand corresponds to Matthew 21:17, and more especially Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 21:17, where Jesus taught about or enlightened his hearers about the Kingdom of God.

Three disparate texts in non related languages, Secret or Longer Mark ([i]), Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew ([ii]) and the Heliand, have Jesus leave the Temple, go to the Mount of Olives (Bethany is located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about two miles east of Jerusalem) where he spent the night, and provided instruction about the Kingdom of God.

The Heliand is probably derived from the Diatessaron.  This suggests that research into a possible relationship between Secret Mark and the Diatessaron may be of value.

D. Blocker, August 08, 2011


[i] ) Excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark from Clement’s Letter to Theodore: “And they come into Bethany … he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God.”

[ii] ) “He left and went out to Bethany and (spent the night) there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, p. 103)

Morton Smith was very busy and would not have had time to forge the Clement letter

A Swedish version of this post can be found here
En svensk version av denna text finns här.

We have established that (at the latest) in a fourteenth century Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is said to have spent the night in Bethany teaching his disciples the Kingdom of God (see: A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?). Unlike what is said in Secret Mark, there is no mystery of the kingdom of God being taught and there is also not just one disciple but many involved. So, as someone wrote to me, “it’s interesting but not compelling evidence. It probably won’t change any minds.” Yet it is a strange coincidence that an obscure Hebrew version of Matthew should have Jesus teaching the kingdom of God during the night in Bethany, with no indication elsewhere in any Greek, Latin or other texts that Jesus should have done so, before the discovery of the Mar Saba letter in 1958.

“The Cave” proposes only two possible alternatives, namely …

a) Secret Mark relies directly on Shem Tov’s Matthew (likely as a hoax)
b) Shem Tov’s Matthew relies, directly or indirectly, on Secret Mark” (Blocker and Viklund on Hebrew Matthew and Secret Mark)

There is though another possibility, although unlikely, it seems to me. Since the settings are not identical, the tradition could have been invented separately by the Hebrew community and by a forger of Secret Mark. Why this would happen, I do not know, but stranger things have indeed happened.

But if you at least find it to be a remarkable coincidence that these things are said in the Hebrew Matthew, then the thing to resort to if you thinks Smith forged the Clement letter, is that he found the Hebrew text at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTC) after he came to Columbia University in 1957.

The JTC is only a few streets away from Columbia University where Smith had his office, and we know that Smith spent some time at the JTC. Four of the available manuscripts containing the Hebrew text of Matthew are at the JTC. They were for sure inaccessible since they were not transcribed, nor translated, written in quite difficult handwriting and interspersed with anti-Christian commentary; and Smith showed no particular interest in Medieval Hebrew manuscripts.

Yet all the same, those who believe Smith forged the text often come up with all sorts of solutions on how he would have manage to accomplish such a deed as it would be to forge Clement’s letter to Theodoros. He for sure must have been able to imitate the style of both Mark and Clement. To imitate someone like Clement in his own native language is a really difficult task by someone living today and not having Greek as his native language. On top of this he would have chosen to write it down in a difficult 18th century monastic hand with all its different characteristics.

If you then find it too unlikely that Secret Mark just happened to express an idea found in a practically unknown obscure Hebrew 14th century text of Matthew, and you still think Smith forged the Clement letter, there is only one realistic scenario left. Smith must have found this Hebrew text at JTC after he entered his duties at Columbia University; i.e. sometime during the year preceding his discovery at Mar Saba in the summer of 1958.

But this is highly unlikely, because he was so occupied at this time and to make a forgery of this kind means that Smith would have needed a long, long time to make all the preparations, including to achieve all the abilities needed for the project. I do not think he would have been able to accomplish this even if he spent almost his whole life preparing for the task. But all the same, he would have had just one year at his disposal, if he by chance would have found the text almost immediately as he arrived.

So, it is then interesting to read what he himself writes on the issue regarding the time he had available. The letter presented below was written by Smith in December 1957 to his good friend and mentor Gershom Sholem (1897–1982) regarding a book by Sholem which he obviously had promised Sholem to read.

“The Department of History[1]
Columbia University
New York 27, N.. Y.
December 9, 1957

Dear Gershom,
This is an apology for having done nothing on your book since I saw you last, and having every expectation of doing nothing for the next twelve months to come. The fact is that my courses and preparation for courses to come are taking every bit of my time. I have some 95 students in my general course on ancient history, and this has meant a great deal of paper work. That course and another, on classical literature, which I am teaching, I had never given before; the subjects covered lie somewhat outside my former field; and consequently I have had to work constantly on preparation for them. I’m standing the strain all right, but by summer I shall be dead tired, so I am planning to spend the whole of the summer in the Near East – from mid-June to mid-July in Jordan, a week in Israel (when I hope to see you and Thanya[2]), a week in Istanbul, a month in northern Greece, hunting for collections of manuscripts in the monasteries of Chalcidice (excluding Athos), and a week each in Rome, Paris, and London. This means that when I get back I shall have another term of keeping up with my courses, but I hope that by a year from now all will be in hand, and I shall be able to get back to Reshit HaKabbalah. If you do not wish to wait this long for the completion of the work (longer, in fact, since if I start it again in January 59 I shall not be through before fall of that year; you know my speed) I shall be quite willing to turn over to you the part completed to date. For myself, however, I should like to go on and finish the translation of the work, and seriously intend to do so as soon as I can get time.”

Smith apologizes for not having had time to do anything on Gershom Sholem’s book because his courses take every bit of his time. He has never given courses on ancient history and on classical literature before, since they are a bit outside his field and he has to make a lot of preparations. He says that he is expecting of doing nothing for the next twelve month to come but that he will spend all summer in the Near East.

One might notice that the visit to Israel for a week mentioned by Smith, should have been the week following upon his stay at Mar Saba. Still there is no indication in this letter that he meant to go there.

All the same, I find it almost impossible to believe that Smith could have spent anywhere near the time needed to procure the abilities needed to make a forgery like the Mar Saba letter in this period of his life. If so, we again must assume that Smith, the “evil hater of Christianity”, disguised his evil plan by giving his friend the impression that he had much to do, while he in reality was using all his time to make the forgery – neglecting his duties towards his students.

Yet, we also know that Smith wanted all of his literary remains destroyed after his death and the fact that so much has remained is not anything Smith had control of after his death. These were letters which Smith wanted to have destroyed. If his purpose for writing the letters were to mislead the posterity, then he would not have ordered them to be destroyed.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-08


Morton Smith var strängt upptagen och hade inte tid att förfalska Klemensbrevet under sin tid i New York

En engelsk version finns här.
An English version can be found here.

Vi har konstaterat att Jesus i en hebreisk version av Matteusevangeliet från 1300-talet allra senast, sägs ha tillbringat natten i Betania undervisande sina lärjungar om Guds rike (se: A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?). Till skillnad från vad som sägs i Hemliga Markus, är det inte Guds rikes mysterier som lärs ut och det är heller inte bara en utan flera lärjungar inblandade. Som någon skrev till mig, ”det är intressant, men inte tvingande bevis. Detta kommer förmodligen inte att ändra några uppfattningar.” Ändå är det ett märkligt sammanträffande att det i en föga känd hebreisk version av Matteusevangeliet sägs att Jesus undervisade om Guds rike på natten i Betania, utan att det finns något tecken i någon grekisk, latinsk eller annan text om att Jesus skulle ha gjort det, före upptäckten av Mar Saba-brevet 1958.

Signaturen “The Cave” är av den åsikten att det bara finns två möjliga alternative, nämligen:

a) Hemliga Markus bygger direkt på Shem Tobs Matteus (troligen ett lurendrejeri)
b) Shem Tobs Matteus bygger, direkt eller indirekt på Hemliga Markus” (Blocker and Viklund on Hebrew Matthew and Secret Mark)

Det finns dock en annan möjlighet, även om den för mig ter sig osannolik. Eftersom omständigheterna inte är identiska, kan denna tradition oberoende av varandra ha hittats på av såväl den judiska gemenskapen som av en förfalskare av Hemliga Markus. Varför det skulle ha skett vet jag inte, men märkligare saker har förvisso hänt.

Men om man åtminstone ser det som ett extraordinärt sammanträffande att dessa saker förekommer i Hebreiska Matteus, så återstår om man ändå anser att Smith förfalskade Klemensbrevet, att Smith fann den hebreiska texten på Jewish Theological Seminary (JTC) efter att han anlände till Columbia University 1957.

JTC ligger endast några få kvarter från Columbia University där Smith hade sitt kontor och vi vet att Smith tillbringade viss tid på JTC. Fyra av de kända handskrifterna som innehåller den hebreiska texten av Matteus finns på JTC. De var förvisso svåråtkomliga eftersom de inte fanns transkriberade eller översatta, är skrivna i rätt svårtolkad handstil och texten dessutom är uppblandad med kommentarer som är starkt kritiska mot kristendomen. Dessutom visade Smith inget intresse för judiska medeltida handskrifter.

Oavsett detta brukar de som tror att Smith har förfalskat brevet föreslå alla möjliga förklaringar på hur han lyckades åstadkomma den enorma bedrift som det innebär att förfalska ett brev som detta. Han måste ha lyckats att perfekt imitera både Markus och Klemens. Att imitera någon som Klemens på dennes egna modersmål är en mycket svår uppgift för en modern människa som inte har grekiska som sitt modersmål. Dessutom skulle han ha valt att skriva brevet i en mycket svår grekisk 1700-talsstil med alla dess egenheter.

Om man då finner det alltför osannolikt att Hemliga Markus bara råkade ge uttryck för samma tanke som påträffas i en praktiskt taget okänd hebreisk 1300-talstext av Matteusevangeliet, men man samtidigt anser att Smith förfalskade Klemensbrevet, är det enda återstående realistiska scenariot att Smith måste ha träffat på denna hebreiska text på JTC efter att han tillträdde sin tjänst på Columbia University; dvs. någon gång under det år som föregick hans upptäckt av brevet i Mar Saba sommaren 1958.

Men detta är ytterst osannolikt eftersom han var så upptagen under denna period, och för att kunna åstadkomma en förfalskning av denna magnitud skulle Smith ha behövt mycket lång tid till sitt förfogande. Detta innefattar den tid han behövde ägna åt förberedelser för att kunna tillägna sig alla nödvändiga förmågor. Jag tror inte att han skulle ha lyckats med ett sådant projekt även om han skulle ha tillbringat större delen av sitt liv med att förbereda sig för uppgiften. Men oavsett detta, så hade han nu bara haft ett år till sitt förfogande – under förutsättning att råkade hitta texten i stort sett genast som han kom till New York och Columbia.

Därför är det intressant att ta del av vad han själv skriver rörande hur mycket tid han har över för annat. Brevet som återges här inunder skrev Smith i december 1957 till sin gode vän och mentor Gershom Sholem (1897–1982) angående en bok av denne som Smith uppenbarligen lovat honom att läsa.

“The Department of History[1]
Columbia University
New York 27, N.. Y.
December 9, 1957

Dear Gershom,
This is an apology for having done nothing on your book since I saw you last, and having every expectation of doing nothing for the next twelve months to come. The fact is that my courses and preparation for courses to come are taking every bit of my time. I have some 95 students in my general course on ancient history, and this has meant a great deal of paper work. That course and another, on classical literature, which I am teaching, I had never given before; the subjects covered lie somewhat outside my former field; and consequently I have had to work constantly on preparation for them. I’m standing the strain all right, but by summer I shall be dead tired, so I am planning to spend the whole of the summer in the Near East – from mid-June to mid-July in Jordan, a week in Israel (when I hope to see you and Thanya[2]), a week in Istanbul, a month in northern Greece, hunting for collections of manuscripts in the monasteries of Chalcidice (excluding Athos), and a week each in Rome, Paris, and London. This means that when I get back I shall have another term of keeping up with my courses, but I hope that by a year from now all will be in hand, and I shall be able to get back to Reshit HaKabbalah. If you do not wish to wait this long for the completion of the work (longer, in fact, since if I start it again in January 59 I shall not be through before fall of that year; you know my speed) I shall be quite willing to turn over to you the part completed to date. For myself, however, I should like to go on and finish the translation of the work, and seriously intend to do so as soon as I can get time.”

Smith ursäktar sig för att han ännu inte hunnit ta sig an Gershom Sholems bok eftersom hans undervisning tagit all hans tid. Han har tidigare aldrig undervisat i antikens historia eller i klassisk litteratur, eftersom dessa ämnen låg något utanför hans områden och han därför måste förbereda sig extra mycket. Han skriver att han inte förväntar sig att hinna göra något med boken under de kommande tolv månaderna men att han avser att tillbringa sommaren i Främre Orienten.

Man kan notera att det veckolånga besök i Israel som Smith här nämner, borde vara den vecka som följde direkt på hans besök i Mar Saba. Men det finns inget i detta brev som indikerar att han vid den tiden hade planerat för det besöket.

Hur som helst finner jag det vara näst intill omöjligt att tro att Smith vid denna tid skulle ha kunnat frigöra ens en bråkdel av den tid som borde ha behövts för att tillägna sig de nödvändiga förmågorna för att kunna utföra förfalskningen. Om han mot förmodan ändå skulle ha gjort det, måste vi anta att Smith, den ”ondskefulle kristendomshataren” lät förkläda sin ondskefulla plan genom att låtsas vara fullt upptagen medan han i själva verket använde all sin tid till att skapa förfalskningen – och därmed också ha underlåtit att fullfölja sina förpliktelser gentemot sina studenter.

Men vi vet också att Smith krävt att hela hans litterära kvarlåtenskap skulle förstöras efter hans död, och det faktum att mycket ändå har bevarats är något som Smith inte hade kontroll över efter sin död.  Smith ville inte att dessa brev skulle bevaras till eftervärlden. Hade han medvetet skrivit dem för att förvilla eftervärlden skulle han inte ha beordrat att de skulle förstöras efter hans död.

Roger Viklund, 2011-08-08


A Fourteenth Century Text in which Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God During the Night at Bethany: Does It Demonstrate That Secret Mark Is an Ancient Text, and Not a Modern Forgery?

This essay was co-authored by
David Blocker and Roger Viklund

A PDF file of the essay can be found here.

Abstract

The 14th century polemical treatise Even Bohan written by Shem-Tob ben Shaprut contains a Hebrew version of the complete text of the Gospel of Matthew.  In this text, Jesus is said to have spent the night in Bethany where he taught the disciples about the Kingdom of God.  The Secret Gospel of Mark contains a similar passage.  If the two texts can be shown to be interrelated it would provide strong evidence that the Secret Gospel of Mark is not a modern forgery.

The Secret Gospel of Mark also demonstrates that the redactional history of the Jesus tradition is complex.

 

The History of the Texts

The Even Bohan is an anti Christian treatise written by the Spanish Jewish philosopher Shem-Tob ben Isaac Shaprut of Tudela.  It was initially composed between 1380 and 1385 CE.  Shem-Tob issued several revisions of the Even Bohan, adding five more books to his original twelve.  The twelfth book includes a complete Hebrew text of the Gospel of Matthew, which is interspersed with anti-Christian commentary.

George Howard extracted the text of Matthew from the Even Bohan, translated it into English and published it in 1987 (George Howard, The Gospel of Matthew according to a Primitive Hebrew Text.  Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987).  A second revised edition was published in 1995 (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995).

George Howard wrote:

”In my judgment, Shem-Tob the polemist did not prepare this text by translating it from Latin Vulgate, the Byzantine Greek, or any other known edition of the Gospel of Matthew.  He received it from previous generations of Jewish scribes and tradents.”  (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Preface to the Second Edition)

Howard also wrote:

“Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew is the most unusual text of the First Gospel extant. It contains a plethora of readings which are not to be found in any of the Christian codices of the Greek Gospel. Its unusual nature may be explained by the fact that it underwent a different process of transmission than the Greek, since it was preserved by Jews, independent from the Christian community. A textual profile of Shem-Tob’s Matthew reveals that it sporadically agrees with early witnesses, both Christian and non-Christian. Sometimes it agrees with readings and documents that vanished in antiquity only to reappear in recent times. The profile thus suggests that a Shem-Tob type text of Matthew was known in the early Christian centuries.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, p. 190–191)

This Hebrew Gospel of Matthew should not be confused with the so-called Gospel of the Hebrews ([i]).  The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew is a version of the Gospel of Matthew, and George Howard argues convincingly for its antiquity ([ii]).

The Secret Gospel of Mark is a text referred to in a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria, a late second and early third century Christian scholar.  Two excerpts from the Secret Gospel of Mark are quoted in the letter.  A copy of the letter was discovered by Morton Smith in 1958, when he was cataloguing texts at the Mar Saba Monastery in Israel ([iii]).

 

Dissimilar texts of Matthew 21:17

There is a subtle but noteworthy difference between the Greek and the Hebrew versions of Matthew 21:17.

In the Greek text of Matthew 21:12–18, Jesus drove out all who were buying and selling from the temple courts.  Then, after he cured the lame and the blind, Jesus went to Bethany:

“21:17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. 18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry.”

In this account, Jesus spend the night in Bethany, and no other significant events were reported as having occurred there ([iv]).

Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew (21:17) contains additional information about what Jesus did when he spent the night in Bethany.  George Howard’s translation is as follows:

“He left and went out to Bethany and (spent the night) there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, p. 103, our emphasis)

Compare this to the long excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark in Morton Smith’s translation:

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.” (our emphasis)

The Shem-Tob Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, contains a verse (Shem-Tob Matthew 21:17) which has a direct counterpart in the Secret Gospel of Mark. Moreover, there is no corresponding overlap between Canonical Matthew and the Secret Gospel of Mark. The verse in Hebrew Matthew contains the first and last sentence of the paragraph from Secret Mark that Clement of Alexandria recorded in his Letter to Theodore (the phrases about Jesus’ interaction with the “certain woman” and Lazarus are excluded).

The Hebrew text of Matthew is preserved in nine manuscripts which date between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries ([v]).  Verse 21:17 is transcribed by Howard as

Howard translates this as:

“He left and went out to Bethany and (spent the night) there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.”

Since neither of us knows Hebrew, we asked for a second opinion from Professor Stephen L. Cook ([vi]), who replied:

“As it stands, the text appears to say “So he left, and he went out to the house of Hannaniah and he went there and there he was seeking for them the kingdom of God.”

The house of Hannaniah is of course Bethany (Beit Hannaniah).  However, there are two noteworthy deviations from Howard’s translation.  In Cook’s translation, Jesus was “seeking for them” the Kingdom of God, while Howard translates the same passage as Jesus was “explaining” it to them.

Nevertheless, both translations imply that some form of instruction took place, either in the form of a didactic explanation, or as a set of directions (i.e. how to seek or get to the kingdom of God).  The Hebrew word דורש, transcribed as Doresh, has two meanings.  One is to demand something, which does not fit the context; the other is “to enlighten” or “to tell”, which does fit.  According to the text, Jesus told (taught) them, or enlightened them about the Kingdom of God.

The second deviation is that Professor Cook left out the passage that Howard put in brackets indicating that Jesus spent the night in Bethany.  This, however, is because the text translated by Cook came from a manuscript, Ms. Add. no. 26964, British Library, London, where the passage in brackets is missing.

Howard’s translation, on the other hand, is a reconstruction based on several other manuscripts (mss A, B, D, E, F and G) (v).  Ms. Add. no. 26964 has וילך שם, transcribed as Vayelech Sham, which means “and he went there”, just as Professor Cook translated it.  The other six mss have וילן שם, transcribed as Vayalun Sham, which means “and he slept there”, or as Howard translates it: “and he spent the night there”.  This also corresponds to the Greek text of Matthew, where the word ηὐλίσθη (êulisthê) is used, which means to “lodge” ([vii]), i.e. “spend the night”.

Below is the actual page from Ms. Add. no. 26964 with the relevant part marked by us.  As far as we can tell, Howard has correctly transcribed the text.

The additional text, (spent the night), is present in the manuscript Howard called A; (Ms. Heb. 28. Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden) and other manuscripts.  A copy of the actual page from Howard’s manuscript A is presented below with the relevant part marked by us.

This document has the complete phrase “and he spent the night there” (וילן שם) instead of the British Library manuscript’s truncated phrase “and he went there” (וילך שם).

 

Parallels and Differences

The word “mystery” is not in the Hebrew text.  Hebrew Matthew 21:17 refers only to “the Kingdom of God” but not to “the mystery of the Kingdom of God” as in Secret Mark.

According to Secret Mark, after he raised the youth from the dead and taught him about the Kingdom of God, Jesus returned to the other side of the Jordan ([viii]).  According to Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew, after he taught the Kingdom of God, Jesus returned to Jerusalem ([ix]).

The Gospel of John (John 1:28) stated that John the Baptist performed baptisms at “Bethany beyond the Jordan”.  This “Bethany beyond the Jordan” appears to be the place where Jesus raised the youth in the Secret Gospel of Mark.

This “Bethany beyond the Jordan” seems to be at a different location from the Bethany in Matthew 21:17 (located an evening’s walk from Jerusalem), which John 11:18 stated was 3 km (2 miles) from Jerusalem.

The apparent duplication of Bethany’s encountered in the Gospels can be explained with the following arguments.

First, some early manuscripts of the Gospel of John used the place name Bethabarah rather than “Bethany beyond the Jordan”.  Second, Origen indicated that there was only one Bethany ([x]).  The apparent duplication of Bethany’s was due to confusion of similar place names.  Third, and most importantly, it is likely that Secret Mark followed the narrative sequence in the Gospel of John rather than the Synoptic Gospels.  Instead of returning to Jerusalem after spending the night at Bethany, as he did in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus, following the Resurrection of Lazarus, went to the Jordan River, just as he did in the Gospel of John ([xi]).

In light of this, there are striking intertextual similarities which need to be taken under consideration.

1)      In both Secret Mark and Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew, a significant incident occurred in a village called Bethany.

2)      In both texts, Jesus taught [the mystery of] the Kingdom of God.

3)      In both texts, he taught his disciples, or a recently converted disciple.

4)      In both texts, the teaching was done at night.

The Hebrew Matthew of the Even Bohan has many similarities to writings other than just the Greek Gospel of Matthew.  It reflects readings in other ancient manuscripts such as Codex Sinaiticus and the Gospel of Thomas ([xii]).

Finally, a fairly long passage from the Gospel of Mark was incorporated into in the text of Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew ([xiii]) (xvii).

While there is some controversy regarding the dating of its various sources, Shem-Tob Matthew appears to reflect both well established ancient texts, and texts that have only recently been discovered.  It seems likely that it has preserved an otherwise lost tradition of Jesus’ night-time teaching of (the mystery of) the Kingdom of God in Bethany.  Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew used information found in the now lost longer version of Mark quoted in Clement’s letter to Theodore.  This information about teaching in Bethany is not found in the shorter standard version of the Gospel of Mark.

The Secret Gospel of Mark and Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew share a common tradition. Since it has been demonstrated that Secret Mark is related to an obscure text that was written down in the fourteenth century, it is improbable that the excerpts from Secret Mark are a modern forgery.


Was Morton Smith aware of Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew?

Was Morton Smith aware of Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew and could he have used it to forge Secret Mark?  This is unlikely for several reasons.

Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew had not been transcribed for general distribution, and was not translated into English and published until 1987.  Prior to then, neither Morton Smith, nor anyone else, had easy access to, let alone knowledge of a Hebrew text of Shem-Tob Matthew ([xiv]).  Smith of course knew Hebrew and theoretically could have found the manuscripts of Shem-Tob Matthew.  One manuscript is in the British Library in London, one is in Leiden, three are in Oxford and four are in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York ([xv]).  The Jewish Theological Seminary is just a few streets away from Columbia University where Smith had his office, and Smith did spend time at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

As far as we can tell, Smith did not work with the Gospel of Matthew during the 1950s and is not known to have transcribed or translated a Hebrew version of any Gospel.  Moreover, Smith was not particularly interested in medieval Jewish manuscripts.  As Allan Pantuck tells us: “He once reconstructed a passage of the Dead Sea Scrolls from a book at JTS, but even in this case, he had Shaye Cohen assist him” ([xvi]).  Smith was appointed to the Columbia faculty in the fall of 1957, and discovered Secret Mark during the summer of 1958.  He had almost no time to find the JTS manuscripts, understand their significance, and then craft a forgery in preparation for his 1958 summer trip to the Mar Saba Monastery.  In fact, he wrote in a letter that his heavy class load severely limited his time to do additional work (xvi).  Smith also would have had to delete the same phrase from his forgery that was missing from the London Library manuscript, but not from all of the JTS manuscripts.  Therefore Smith’s having forged Clement’s letter becomes a virtual non-issue.

It would take an extraordinary stretch of the imagination to believe that Morton Smith burrowed into a seventeen volume handwritten medieval Jewish text, found a sentence in the Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew, that is subtly different from the standard Greek text and then used this sentence as the basis of the beginning and end of a forged invented version of the Gospel of Mark.  He would have to have inserted the word “mystery”, replaced the disciples with a youth, used the Gospel of John to locate Bethany, and correlated his forgery with episodes from the Gospel of John and a narrative lacuna in the Gospel of Mark.  This scenario should be eliminated by applying Occam’s razor.

Another “Raising” scene from the Gospel of Mark in Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew

We have made another discovery.  At this point in time, we are not sure if it is just a strange coincidence based on stylistic similarities of the source materials, or if it represents the result of deliberate text borrowing by an ancient redactor in order to preserve a hidden tradition.

As previously stated, Shem-Tob Matthew contains a large block of text taken from the Gospel of Mark (xvii). The text of Mark 9:20–28 was inserted into Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew between Matthew 17:17 and Matthew 17:19.  This is the only large block of text from another Gospel that has been inserted into Hebrew Matthew.

Mark 9:20–28 is about Jesus healing a boy with a dumb spirit.  Jesus rebuked the spirit, and ordered it to leave the boy:

“And [the spirit] cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house …” (Mark 9:26–28 from the Greek text of the Gospel of Mark)

This is the parallel text from Howard’s translation of the Hebrew text of Shem-Tob Matthew:

“… the boy was left as dead so that many were saying that he was dead. Jesus took him (by the hand), stood him up and he arose. When Jesus entered the house … ([xvii]).”

This should be compared to the raising of the youth in the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth …”

(Bold text added for emphasis)

The Greek in the two passages is very close.

Secret Mark:
… ἐξέτεινεν τὴν χεῖρα καὶ ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν· κρατήσας τῆς χειρόςἦλθον εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν τοῦ νεανίσκου

Mk 9:27–28:
ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς κρατήσας αὐτόντῆς χειρὸς ἤγειρεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέστη καὶ εἰσελθόντα αὐτόν εἰς οἶκον
(Color added for emphasis)

Secret Mark:
… he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand … came into the house of the youth.

Mk 9:27–28:
But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house …

Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that Secret Mark has parallels with the only lengthy passage from the Gospel of Mark that was incorporated into Shem Tob Matthew?

The parallel texts are about Jesus taking the hand of a seemingly dead youth, raising him, and then “coming into a house”.  Furthermore, in each example, the “raising episode” is followed by Jesus offering instruction to his disciple(s) (see Matthew 17:19–21), which further emphasizes the text parallels.

Additionally, where Secret Mark fills in a narrative gap in the received Greek Text of Mark (iv); the interpolation of the Markan text into Shem Tob Matthew fills in a narrative gap in the text of Matthew by adding supplementary details about the raising of the young boy.

Finally, Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 17, Mark 9:20–28, and Secret Mark’s raising of the youth, and the Raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John (John 11) have considerable narrative overlap.

All this of course might just be due to a series of coincidences.  However, these coincidences are found in a text where Jesus, while in Bethany at night, is said to have taught the disciples the Kingdom of God.  One cannot help wondering if an otherwise lost tradition has been preserved at least in part in this Hebrew text of Matthew: a tradition that is also found in the Secret Gospel of Mark.

Concluding Remarks

The Secret Gospel of Mark suggests that the Gospels have a complex history of redaction and transmission.

There is a tradition in Shem-Tob’s fourteenth century Hebrew Matthew, that while spending the night at Bethany, Jesus taught the Kingdom of God to his disciples.  This tradition was practically unknown prior to the discovery of brief quotations from the Secret Gospel of Mark.  This and other narrative and vocabulary parallels lend credibility to Secret Mark being an ancient text and not a modern forgery.

David Blocker, Roger Viklund, © August 5, 2011

Endnotes:


[i] )  The Gospel of the Hebrews is attested by Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus, Origen, Eusebius, Cyril, Epiphanius, Jerome and others.

[ii] )  George Howard writes:

“ … Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew predates the fourteenth century, being preserved primarily by the Jewish community.”  (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995, p. 234)

[iii] )  Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark, London Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1974 ISBN 0-575-01801-1.

[iv] )  This is analogous to the passage in Mark 10:46 where the Greek text states that Jesus entered and then left Jericho without anything else occurring:

“And they came to Jericho; and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples …”

There is an apparent lacuna in the verse, concerning what occurred at Jericho. This verse is augmented in Secret Gospel of Mark:

“And after the words, ‘And he comes into Jericho,’ the secret Gospel adds only, ‘And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them.’”

The Secret Gospel of Mark fills in the lacuna in the standard version of Mark, by telling what occurred when Jesus passed through Jericho.

[v] )  George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995, p. xii, p. 102–103.

[vi] )  Dr. Stephen L. Cook is the Catherine N. McBurney Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Virginia Theological Seminary.

[vii] )  The New International Version/Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1976, p. 93.

[viii] )  From Clement’s Letter to Theodore quoting the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“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.”

[ix] )  Shem Tob Matthew 21:17-18:

“17He left and went out to Bethany and spent the night there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.  18It came to pass in the morning that he returned to the city hungry.” (George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995, p. 103)

[x] )  From the Secret Gospel of Mark:

“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.”

According to some manuscripts of John 1:28, John the Baptist baptized at Bethabarah or Betharabah instead of Bethany,

“’These things happened in Bethabarah on the other side’
EVIDENCE: C2 K Pi Psic 083 0113 f1 f13 33 some Byz syr(c,s) one syr(pal) cop(south)

“’These things happened in Betharabah on the other side’
EVIDENCE: Sb 892variant”.  (A Student’s Guide to New Testament Textual Variants, Bruce Terry, Professor of Bible and Humanities, Chair, School of Biblical Studies, Ohio Valley University, http://bible.ovc.edu/terry/tc/lay09jhn.htm, Retrieved July, 2011)

Church fathers such as John Chrysostom and Origen believed the place was called Bethabarah.  For instance Origen said in his Commentary to the Gospel of John (i, 28) that he could not find a place named Bethany along the Jordan, but there was a place called Bethabarah, which according to tradition, was linked to John the Baptist?

”We are not ignorant that in nearly all codices Bethany is the reading. But we were persuaded that not Bethany, but Bethabara should be read, when we came to the places that we might observe the footprints of the Lord, of His disciples, and of the prophets. For, as the Evangelist relates, Bethany the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, is distant from Jerusalem fifteen furlongs, while the Jordan is distant one hundred and eighty furlongs. Neither is there a place along the Jordan which has anything in common with the name Bethany. But some say that among the mounds by the Jordan Bethabara is pointed out, where history relates that John baptized”. (Breen, A.E. (1907). Bethany Beyond the Jordan. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 2, 2011 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02532a.htm)

Flavius Josephus mentioned a village called Bethezub (Jewish War 6.3.4 ) which from the text’s context, might have been located beyond the Jordan.

This implies that the so-called Bethany on the other side of the Jordan was in fact called Bethabarah.

[xi] )  The canonical and synoptic Gospel of Mark (11:11–15) and Gospel of Matthew (21:17–19), state that Jesus left the city of Jerusalem, spent the night in Bethany, and returned to Jerusalem the next day.

There is no exact parallel in the Gospel of Luke.  The Gospel of Luke does not mention a visit to Bethany.  There was a daily teaching at the Temple (Luke 19:47) which might parallel the nocturnal teaching at Bethany in Secret Mark and Shem-Tob Matthew.

In Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew 21:17-18, Jesus left Jerusalem for Bethany where he spent the night explaining the Kingdom of God.  He returned to Jerusalem the next day.

In the excerpt from the Secret Gospel of Mark contained in Clement’s Letter to Theodore, Jesus went to Bethany, raised and taught Lazarus and then returned to the other side of the Jordan.

In John 11, Jesus traveled from the “place where he was” outside of Judea (John 11:6–7) to Bethany, where he freed Lazarus from his tomb (John 11:41–44).  The Temple Priests issued a death warrant for Jesus (John 11:53, 57).  Jesus went into hiding and left for a region near the desert, a town called Ephraim (John 11:54).  Six days before Passover, Jesus returned to Bethany (John 12:1) and then went to Jerusalem the next day (John 12:12).

The texts are quoted below:

Mark 11:11–15:

“11And he entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. 12On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. … 15And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the Temple …”

Matthew 21:17-18:

“… and leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.  18In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry.”

Shem-Tob Matthew 21:17-18:

17He left and went out to Bethany and spent the night there and there he was explaining to them the Kingdom of God.  18It came to pass in the morning that he returned to the city hungry.”

Secret Mark: 

“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.”

John 11 et seq.:

John 11:17: “When Jesus arrived … 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.”

John 11:54: “he left for the region near the desert to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.”

John 12:1: “… Jesus came to Bethany, …”

John 12:12:  “On the next day, when the great crowd … heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they … went out to meet him.”

Ephraim is traditionally located about twelve miles northwest of Jerusalem where the mountains descend into the Jordan Valley (From: Footnote to John 11:54, New American Bible, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, D.C. 1970).  Ephraim was mentioned by Josephus as being a small town near Bethel (Josephus, Jewish War 4.55).  Ephraim has been identified with the modern et-Tayibeh, about 4 miles NW of Bethel (F.F. Bruce, The Gospel of John. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids Michigan. 1983, p. 252).  et-Tayibeh is located in the Jordan Valley, between tributaries of the river.

In the Gospel of John, like the Secret Gospel of Mark, Jesus left Bethany and went down into the Jordan Valley after he released a youth from a tomb.  The location of Ephraim is not certain, but even if Jesus did not actually cross over the Jordan when he went to Ephraim, he was in close proximity to the Jordan; that is he was situated just across from the Jordan.

In his letter to Theodore, Clement wrote: “After these words follow the text, ’And James and John come to him’, and all that section.”  This corresponds to Mark 10:35* (parallel Matthew 20:20) where the Zebedees requested precedence over the other disciples.  This took place when Jesus was going up to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32) after having first gone beyond the Jordan to teach (Mark 10:1).

At this point it is evident that the relationship between the texts is far from straightforward, and reveals that there was a very complex history of redaction and transmission of the Jesus legend.  The links between texts are exposed by examining non canonical gospels.

We have demonstrated that there was a tradition of Jesus teaching and crossing the Jordan, and then returning to Jerusalem.  This tradition is found in both in the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John, and its presence is implied in the Secret Gospel of Mark.  In both the Gospel of John and the Secret Gospel of Mark, Jesus went down into the Jordan Valley, after releasing a young man from his tomb.

* Mark 10:35-37:

“And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’ And he said to them, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’”

[xii] )  George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1995.  Part 2.  Analysis and Commentary.

[xiii] )  See discussion in this essay’s chapter “Another “Raising” scene from the Gospel of Mark in Shem-Tob’s Hebrew Matthew”.

[xiv] )  A translation of the du Tillet version of Hebrew Matthew had been published in 1927.  du Tillet Hebrew Matthew is a different text type from Shem Tob Hebrew Matthew.  The text of du Tillet Hebrew Matthew 21:17 is the same as the verse in canonical Matthew.  Schonfield’s translation of du Tillet Hebrew Matthew gives no indication that the Shem-Tob text of this verse was different from the verse in the canonical text.  Schonfield, Hugh J.  An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew’s Gospel, T & T Clark, 1927, p. 142.

[xv] )  The list of manuscripts consulted by Professor George Howard:

“Ms. Add. no. 26964. British Library, London. (Serves as the printed text for Matthew 1:1-23:22.)
A         Ms. Heb. 28. Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden.
B          Ms. Mich. 119. Bodleian Library, Oxford
C          Ms. Opp. Add. 4° 72. Bodleian Library, Oxford.
D         Ms. 2426 (Marx 16). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, (Serves as the printed text for Matthew 23:23-end.)
E          Ms. 2279 (Marx 18). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.
F          Ms. 2209 (Marx 19). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.
G          Ms. 2234 (Marx 15). Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.
H         Ms. Mich. 137. Bodleian Library, Oxford.”
(George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. 1995, p. xii)

[xvi] )  Personal communication with Allan Pantuck, July 22, 2011.  Alan J. Pantuck was one of Morton Smith’s students and is a current defender of Morton Smith’s literary estate.  Alan J. Pantuck, MD, MS, FACS, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California.

[xvii] )  George Howard, Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. 1995, p. 85, 87. The text of Mark 9:20–28 was inserted into Shem-Tob Hebrew Matthew between Matthew 17:17 and Matthew 17:19.

Senaste nytt om Hemliga Markus

Jag tänkte uppdatera mina svenska läsare om det nyaste på Hemliga Markus-fronten. Det är Stephan Huller som gräver fram information i rasande fart och den engelskspråkige (och andra) kan givetvis enklast inhämta informationen direkt från Hullers blogg på http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/

Än har dock inte själva brevet dykt upp. Agamemenon Tselikas ansåg sig ju ha funnit en handstil som enligt honom är så lik den i Mar Saba-brevet att det rimligen var denna handstil som Morton Smith imiterade när han enligt Tselikas förfalskade brevet. Av flera skäl är denna tanke emellertid ologisk, och en av orsakerna är att handstilen i Tselikas’ exempel inte är speciellt lik den i Mar Saba-brevet.

Stephen Huller har i stället studerat Smiths monumentalverk Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark från 1973. Detta är i sanning ett imponerande verk och jag kan inte erinra mig att jag någonsin läst en bok som är så fylld med information och djupstudier. Det närmaste man kan komma är väl artiklar som ju ofta går på djupet i någon speciell fråga, gärna då grundliga artiklar av någon tysk forskare som inte lämnar något åt slumpen. Smiths bok kan kanske liknas vid en jättelång sådan artikel och den är nästan omöjlig att läsa bara rakt upp och ner utan liknar mer ett uppslagsverk som man återvänder till. I vilket fall påpekar Huller att i stort sett alla de problem som Carlson, Tselikas och andra tar upp har Smith redan avhandlat i sin bok, så också detta med andra handskrifter som liknar den i Mar Saba-brevet.

Morton Smith hade själv med hjälp V. Scouvaras identifierat en grekisk 1700-talsskribent som hade en handstil som är mycket lik den i Mar Saba-brevet. Smith skriver i inledningen till sin bok:

”Professor Scouvaras has produced an eighteenth-century ecclesiastical document in a native Greek hand strikingly similar to that of our manuscript. (See Plate IV.) A number of the mus, in particular, are practically identical. Since Scouvaras’ document is an autograph codex of the Oecumenical Patriarch Callinicus III and was written about 1760 in the Phanariot hand which had been formed in Constantinople shortly before that time, we may suppose with some probability that the writer of the present letter had been trained in the Patriarchal Academy in Constantinople.” (Se: Morton Smith on Callinicus III (IV) as the Possible Author of Mar Saba 65)

Denne Kallinikos IV (ibland kallades han Kallinikos III, eftersom den egentlige Kallinikos III dog före tillträdandet år 1726) var ekumenisk patriark av Konstantinopel under ett halvårs tid år 1757. Han var då den högste biskopen bland de öst-ortodoxa biskoparna och kan kanske likställas med en påve. Det är denne Kallinikos som levde mellan 1713 och 1797 som Smith åberopar som ett exempel på en person med en handstil som är mycket lik den i Mar Saba-brevet. Exemplet inunder är hämtat från Hullers blogg:

Fler exempel på Kallinikos’ handstil finns att beskåda lågupplösta här.

Faktum är att handstilen är så pass lik att det till och med kan vara Kallinikos som skrivit Mar Saba-brevet. Detta kräver en grundligare studie för att avgöra. I nuläget kan sägas att det omedelbara intrycket är att handstilarna är mycket lika varandra. Flera bokstäver är så pass lika att de nästan kan sägas vara identiska, medan andra verkar avvika. Smith tolkade exempelvis det faktum att flera myn (μ) i stort sett är identiska som att skribenten i likhet med Kallinikos tränats av patriarkerna i Konstantinopel. Men Huller går ett steg längre och föreslår att Kallinikos faktiskt själv skrivit Mar Saba-brevet. Han påvisar bland annat att Kallinikos drabbades av en allvarlig sjukdom när han vistades i Sankta Katarina-klostret i Sinai – något som skulle kunna ha varit en stroke och något som därmed skulle ha kunnat påverka handstilen (Callinicus III (IV) Suffered a Stroke in his Desert Exile Which Altered His Handwriting). Han skulle också kunna ha hittat Klemensbrevet i just Sankta Katharina-klostret.

Just nu ser jag att Huller kommit åt nya exemplar som finns upplagda på den grekiska offentliga bibliotekens webbplats. http://publiclibs.ypepth.gr Tryck först på den brandgula “bannern”.Genom att skriva in 136 i sökrutan (”Αναζήτηση για”) och skriva in Πρίγκος i sökrutan för författare (Συγγραφέας) och därefter klicka på den röda knappen (Αναζήτηση) ska dokumentet komma upp. Jag måste säga att det spontant ser väldigt likt ut den handstil som är i Mar Saba-brevet. Huller anser tydligen numera att det måste vara samma handstil:

It’s Callinicus!

Here’s What We Need to Do to Prove Mar Saba 65 was Written by Callinicus III (IV)

Det finns också andra omständigheter som gör Kallinikos till en trolig kandidat – utöver att hans handstil är mycket snarlik den i Mar Saba-brevet.

1)      Kallinikos var bevisligen intresserad av kyrkofäderna och av Ignatios av Antiochia och citerade honom på grekiska – ett citat som är så pass likt det som förekommer i originalet att han måste ha konsulterat texten. Och vid denna tid fanns endast Vossius’ förstautgåva att tillgå för Kallinikos. (Important Breakthrough – I Can Prove Callinicus III (the guy who’s handwriting closely resembles the handwriting of Mar Saba 65 and who wrote things related to the Church Fathers into countless books printed in Amsterdam) Knew and Used Voss’s 1646 Critical Edition of the Writings of Ignatius)

2)      En annan grek vid namn Johannes Priggos var handelsman och aktiv i bland annat Amsterdam. Han hade god kontakt med Kallinikos. Båda var de rika,  välutbildade och båda värnade också om att sprida bildning bland grekerna. Så Priggos började skicka böcker till Kallinikos av det senaste utkomna i Amsterdam. Men 1757, efter endast sex månader som ekumenisk patriark av Konstantinopel, avsätts Kallinikos i en revolt och tvingas fly till Sinai. Han tar sig senare till Alexandria och så 1763 till Zagora i Grekland, hans födelsestad, och stannar där till sin död död år 1791. Också Johannes Priggos var från Zagora och nu öppnar han ett lärocentrum där med ett bibliotek. Han skickar alla böcker han kommer över i Amsterdam till biblioteket, över 1000 exemplar, och Kallinikos donerar också fler än 300 av sina böcker (326 st och dessutom 35 handskrifter) till detta bibliotek. Tyvärr försvann en stor del av Kallinikos’ boksamling i en båtolycka, men en hel del återstår. Och det visar sig att Kallinikos hade som vana att skriva på ”alla” tomma sidor i sina böcker. (Solving One Piece of the Mar Saba Mystery on Father’s Day)

3)      Biblioteket kom att delvis förstöras i brand och annat under det grekiska frihetskriget mellan åren 1821 och 1829 och böckerna sedan att spridas. De kan ha hamnat var som helst i den grekiska klostervärlden, inklusive i Mar Saba. (Solving One Piece of the Mar Saba Mystery on Father’s Day)

4)      Också Vossius’ förstautgåva av Ignatios’ brev fanns i biblioteket i Zagora. Detta dokument visar att boken fanns upptagen som  nummer 673 med utgivningsår 1646 och detta visar att Johannes Priggos skickade ett exemplar av just den bok vari Mar Saba-brevet finns inskrivet till biblioteket i Zagora. Dokumentet finns publicerat på Hullers blogg:

5)      Under sin vistelse i Sankta Katarina-klostret sysselsatte sig Kallinikos med att kopiera sällsynta handskrifter. Dessa (merparten?) försvann i båtolyckan. (Callinicus Was Involved in Transcribing (and Transporting) Ancient Manuscripts During His Exile at St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai)

Det går alltså att konstatera att det i Zagora i Grekland fanns ett exemplar av just den bok vari Mar Saba-brevet finns inskrivet; att Kallinikos deltog i insamlandet av böcker till biblioteket; att han skrev av texter ur gamla handskrifter; att han ofta skrev i marginalerna och på de tomma sidorna i böcker och att biblioteket ödelades i början av 1800-talet och böckerna sannolikt spreds till olika grekiska bibliotek vilka rimligen var placerade i olika kloster – däribland kanske också det i Mar Saba. Dessutom är Kallinikos’ handstil mycket lik den i Mar Saba-brevet som dessutom verkar skrivet i ett högre tempo än de jämförande texterna av Kallinikos.

Jag är på resande fot och har inte möjlighet att göra någon grundlig jämförande analys av texterna. Just nu kan jag bara säga att de verkar likna varandra och det kan vara så att Huller har hittat den som skrev brevet, i så fall det grekisk-ortodoxa patriarkatets eget överhuvud. Det finns åtminstone en möjlighet att så är fallet. Och även om nu inte Kallinikos är skribenten, visar det flera saker, nämligen att stilen var förhärskande i Konstantinopel, Vossius’ utgåva av intresse för lärda greker, att det skrevs i böcker och att böcker spreds till olika bibliotek och att Klemensbrevet därför kan ha nedtecknats någon annanstans än i Mar Saba.

Roger Viklund, 2011-06-23

My Follow-up on Larry Hurtado’s Follow-up on Secret Mark

Larry W. Hurtado

Larry W. Hurtado

Larry Hurtado has responded to my blog post Larry W. Hurtado’s arguments that Secret Mark is a forgery, where I am criticizing the arguments he in his blog post “Secret Mark”: Heat and (Insufficient) Light) in the first place put forward to cast suspicion on the text. In his response he writes the following:

“Mr. Roger Viklund is a now-familiar zealous advocate of the authenticity and importance of the purported letter of Clement of Alexandria and, more important still, the putative “Secret Mark” excerpted in the letter.  Unable, thus, to tolerate any hint of suspicion about the text, he has posted a refutation of my “arguments”. … Oh dear!  I fear that his charming devotion to “Secret Mark” has led him to misconstrue my posting – – – so Mr. Viklund’s anxiety and zeal to refute these “observations” is misplaced – – –  and in Viklund’s case with such desperate zeal – – – Mr. Viklund’s excited attempt to refute my observations reflects the “heat” about which I complained” (excerpts from A Follow-up on “Secret Mark” by Larry W. Hurtado)

Well, I seem to have worked up some heat anyway.

Larry Hurtado thinks among other things that his report “was not a set of ‘arguments’ but merely some observations, that I [he] contend give us cause to hesitate to embrace the Clement letter and its purported excerpts as much of a basis for grand theories about the Gospel of Mark and Christian origins.” But “observations” made in order to cause us to hesitate to embrace the Clement letter, is of course arguments – what else could it be? So instead of welcoming criticism of his “observations”, which is the basis of all scientific research, Hurtado accuses me of being unable “to tolerate any hint of suspicion about the text”; but still he says that we should “have more light, and less heat”.

Hurtado claims that I do not correct his “observations (they stand as valid), but instead tries to minimize their force as ‘arguments’.” Well, what else is there to do about mere suggestions? The fact is, that after having said in his first blog post “Secret Mark”: Heat and (Insufficient) Light that the York event was focusing upon the “hoax question”, Hurtado claims that this isn’t the only question and not the case that everything else depends on:

“The York event seems to have focused on this hoax question, and the reports suggest a resulting stand-off, with nobody changing his/her mind as a result.  But this isn’t the only question, and it certainly isn’t the case that everything else depends on it.  I reiterate a few points from my own discussion of “Secret Mark” in my book, Lord Jesus Christ:  Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, 2003), 433-37 (to which readers are referred for details and references to other publications).”

To my mind the following points presented by Hurtado is meant to be a set of arguments to be put on top of the “hoax question”.

Hurtado says that his position “is one of withholding judgement”, which is fine with me. It is like saying – I’m neutral. Yet Hurtado is without any doubt standing in one corner of the ring, always arguing against authenticity and urging us not to pay much attention to the letter. There is no secret that I am in the other corner of the ring; yet none of us knows the truth.

Of course I fully agree with Hurtado that it was correct to publish Stephen Carlson’s book. In fact, that book has advanced the study of the letter immensely; not because of its brilliant insights but because of all the debate and research it has led to.

Hurtado also likes to correct my construal. He elaborates on his original point that it is “curious that this is the only letter of Clement to survive stands.” He is saying that it is curious that this particular “letter with its tantalizing references to an otherwise unknown text should somehow survive” and not another text. He claims that this is not an argument that it’s inauthentic, but “a reason to treat it with some caution”. We all treat it with some caution (since no one knows if it is genuine), and since it is no argument (according to Hurtado) I will leave it by that. I also consider it not to be an argument of any importance.

Hurtado also emphasizes that a “lot can happen in that length of time!” This is of course true. Yet, a lot can also happen in a short of time, as we can see regarding texts which have entered the Bible under the pretence of being written by someone who did not write it. So, although I agree that it of course would have been much better if we had an early papyrus from let’s say the third century attesting to either the letter or the Secret Gospel, but since we don’t, we are stuck with what we have. No matter what, we still have to judge the text on its own merits.

Hurtado also argues that there “is no reason to treat this letter of Clement as authentic” just because “there were many more ancient Christian texts than survive”. But I would never dream of making such an argument. I only pointed to the opposite, namely that there is no reason to cast suspicion on the authenticity of this letter of Clement because it is not (openly) attested to by the Church Fathers. It is after all said to be a secret Gospel which Theodoros is requested to deny on oath, or at least to deny that Mark is the author; a gospel that is only found in the “church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.” That such a gospel would have remained unknown for the vast majority of Church Fathers comes as no surprise.

Hurtado now says that it neither is “an ‘argument’ against authenticity of the text” that a number of “scholars point to indications that the excerpts have an indebtedness to GMark and GJohn”. Fine with me, but why then mention it at all if it is not an argument for anything? If it would have been an argument, it would have been an odd one though. Now the fact that “some scholars are so ready to use” Secret Mark for “constructions of the history of GMark” is according to Hurtado “a damn good reason to hesitate” when “the scholarly jury remains divided on some basic issues of authenticity”. According to Hurtado, this is still no argument. But why would scholars not use Secret Mark to reconstruct GMark if they think the text is authentic? And even if they are doubtful about the authenticity, a solid reconstruction achieved with the help of Secret Mark; a reconstruction which actually better explains the synoptic problem, could be another way to authenticate Secret Mark. Scholars are all the time working with hypothetical texts and probabilities, for example with Q.

Hurtado finds this to be “particularly odd, when the same scholars who seem so enthusiastic about the Clement letter show very good critical attitudes about some other early Christian texts, for which in fact we have hugely more (and much earlier) evidence.” And then they are also canonical, I suppose Hurtado meant. But there is no correlation between this and that. When Christian texts are questioned, the actual texts are hardly ever questioned (apart from certain phrases), just the authorship and the time when they were written. And this is of course investigated in the same way “with good critical attitudes” also when it comes to Secret Mark. Hurtado instead urges us not to make use of Secret Mark in the reconstructions. I am wondering if he also urges us to do the same with Q?

So, when Hurtado claims that he made no arguments against the authenticity, I of course cannot say that I have refuted them. If there is nothing to refute, you of course cannot refute it. Still, the exhortation to be extra cautious seems unfounded if it would only be based on Hurtado’s “observations”.

The light Hurtado hoped for can perhaps come from the possibility that the ink after all could be tested: Finally there might be a way to confirm whether or not “To Theodoros” is genuine

Roger Viklund, 2011-05-21

Finally there might be a way to confirm whether or not “To Theodoros” is genuine

And so Agamemnon Tselikas has finally published his Handwriting Analysis Report at BAR. As was previously known he thinks that the letter is a forgery and that Morton Smith forged it. His arguments for this were also mostly known before, although he now presents them more in detail. I probably will return to the report more in detail later on, but for the moment I will concentrate on the issue which might be more important than the rest of Tselikas’ arguments combined. For Tselikas has found some scribbles in the book where Clement’s letter to Theodoros originally was penned down, and he thinks that this is the same hand that wrote the Clement letter.

Isaac Vossius’ 1646 edition of the Epistolae genuinae S. Ignatii Martyris, remained in the library after the pages had been removed from it. On page 11 Tselikas found some scribbles where the pen and the quality of the ink obviously were tested. I will take the liberty of using the image published by Tselikas.

Tselikas publishes one letter pi from To Theodoros (reproduced to the right) and says that it “is impressive the similarity of the letter π with that of the manuscript” and that it “must be written by the same hand and ink.” Tselikas does not say from where he has taken his example, however it is taken from the word πρῶτον at 1.20.

At first I got excited. What if this hand from page 11 in Vossius’ book actually is the same as the one who penned down the Clement letter and as Tselikas thinks also used the same ink? Then we could do a test on the ink and although we do not have the actually letter, we still might find out if the text was written in the 17th, 18th, 19th or 20th century.

However, having studied the images more closely, I am far from certain that Tselikas judgment is correct. Of course I cannot challenge his expertise in this field, but the basis for his conclusion seems rather meager. Below I reproduce the 10 pis found in the first 10 lines of Clement’s letter to Theodoros, and which have the same loop at the top as the letter reproduced by Tselikas has.

Since the example presented by Tselikas mostly look like scribbles, there is no easy way to find parallels. I suppose three of the four letter-like creations to the right of page 11 could be compared to the pis in Clement’s letter to Theodoros; and I reproduce them below, with the contrast slightly enhanced.

Although one might say that they look a bit similar, I would say that it is an exaggeration to claim that the similarity “is impressive” and that “it must be written by the same hand and ink.”

And then there also seems to be an alpha, I guess. This however could not so readily be said to resemble the alphas in To Theodoros. There are of course a lot of alphas, but I have been unable to spot a single one which look like this alpha. Below I give some examples.

The alpha (if it is an alpha) to the left from page 11 is, if not round, rather as long as it is tall, while the alphas in To Theodoros almost always are elongated. There are of course a vast number of alphas in the letter and although I checked it in its entirety, I might of course have missed a few. Still the examples above are very representative and the alphas which most closely resemble the alpha at page 11 are the ones in the image below.

These are the second alpha of the word μωρανθῆναι at 1.15 and the alphas from the words μία at 2.23, ἵνα at 3.5, οἰκίαν at 3.6 and νεανίσκου at 3.15. Besides that they still look more elongated, they also lack the vertical pin sticking up above the circle as it does on the alpha at page 11. So even though there might be some fairly close parallels, these parallels would still be exceptions.

The rest of the scribbles are difficult to compare. There are a few B’s (two of them reproduced to the right), but they have no correspondence in To Theodoros.

I would say that a statement by Tselikas that this text is written by the same scribe who penned the Letter to Theodoros of course is possible (and perhaps even probable), but the basis for his judgment seems to be poor and ambiguous. I am afraid that even if we could test the ink and it would give us a fairly secure result, we still cannot know if Clement’s letter to Theodoros was written at the same time by the same scribe; unless there is some other information unknown to me.

Roger Viklund, 2011-05-21

What does it take to change the opinion among the forgery advocators?

When Stephen Carlson published his book The Gospel Hoax in 2005, it was said to be the ”Smoking Gun”, which not only would prove that Clement’s letter to Theodoros, containing excerpts from an otherwise unknown longer version of the Gospel of Mark was a forgery, but also that Morton Smith was the forger. Since then we have come a long way and most, if not every single, argument presented by Carlson has been refuted. In his Apocryphicity blog, Tony Burke gives his Reflections on the Secret Mark Symposium, part 2, and then writes the following regarding Charles Hedrick’s speech:

“Hedrick also dismisses Stephen Carlson’s arguments as “less-than-circumstantial evidence”—indeed, very little of Carlson’s evidence, which has been effectively countered by Scott Brown, Allan Pantuck, and Roger Viklund, was discussed during the day, and it seems to have been abandoned even by those who argue against the text’s authenticity.”

The thing that strikes me the most is the fact that Carlson’s arguments, which were the arguments said to beyond any reasonable doubt prove that the letter was a forgery, now has “has been effectively countered”, and that to an extent that “it seems to have been abandoned even by those who argue against the text’s authenticity”. Yet, there is still no change in the opinion among the forgery advocators. Although all the previous arguments which were considered to be the strongest have been refuted and abandoned, they have just been replaced with new arguments, or to be more precise, with some of the same arguments rehashed.  It seems like the hub around which everything turns is that the letter is a forgery and that Smith forged it. Every single clue leading in this direction, no matter how small a spot of, is used in order to show that Smith forged the text. And when those arguments are demolished one by one, they are just replaced by yet other weak proposals that Smith forged it anyway.

Burke tells us about Charles Hedrick’s paper:

“As part of his paper, Hedrick discusses the statement on the text issued by paleographer Agamemnon Tselikas and some reflections on an interview Hedrick conducted with Tselikas. What is striking about Tselikas’ comments is that they seem at variance with even the evidence he cites—i.e., the text was written in an 18th-century Greek hand, which could not be executed by Smith himself, yet Smith is identified as the forger, having brought the manuscript from another monastery during his travels in Greece as a secret agent working for the US and/or Britain (!).”

This is also a striking example of the same method. The “text was written in an 18th-century Greek hand, which could not be executed by Smith himself, yet Smith is identified as the forger.” I mean, Anastasopoulou’s verdict strongly suggest that Smith could not have written the text himself. This was apparently further strengthened by Allan Pantuck on the conference. In Report on Secret Gospel of Mark Symposium Pt 3, Ryan Wettlaufer summarizes Allan Pantuck’s speech, where …

“he wanted to show how Smith’s life would have left him ill-equipped to create a forgery like sm. For example, Pantuck showed several personal letters wherein Smith lamented his poor Greek skills. He confirmed this with personal writings of other scholars who commented on Smith’s poor Greek skills. These poor skills, Pantuck argued, mean that Smith could not have had the ability to compose a fake letter of Clement.”

Under normal circumstances, one would think that this would lead to at least some consideration among the forgery proponents. But not really. Instead some seem to say that if Smith did not write the text in his own hand he must have had a collaborator – because, as you know, he still must have been the forger. This is how Burke summarizes the present opinion based on Anastasopoulou’s report:

“Her conclusions seem to be universally accepted; no-one at the symposium seems to claim now that Smith personally wrote the text. Even Tselikas agrees with this assessment, believing that Smith had someone from another monastery write it for him.”

But then, who would have composed the text? If Smith did not have the ability to write in a fluid Greek 18th century style, which Anastasopoulou has convincingly shown, and if Smith had such “poor Greek skills”, which both Smith and his colleagues according to Pantuck confirmed – who then composed the letter? Smith not only had insufficient training for writing in this elaborated hand, his skills were not good enough in order to compose the Greek text. It is a huge difference between being able to fairly good read a language and to be able to compose a letter imitating the style of an ancient writer who had Greek as his native language. If Smith would have had a collaborator then this person not only would have had to be excellently skilled in writing this difficult 18th century Greek handwriting, he (or she) would also have had to compose the actual text of Clement (and of Mark). If your skills in Greek are poor, then it is almost a superhuman task to imitate a letter of Clement. I am sure it is no problem for anyone with English as their native language to realize that I do not have English as my native language. So we then end up with a collaborator of Smith who not only wrote the actual text but also must have composed the letter. And if so, what need is there for Smith at all?

And if it is not a modern forgery, then at least it should be an ancient forgery, some argue. Hedrick’s reply to this was interesting. He referred to the endings later made (but not that much later) to the Gospel of Mark (16:9–20), and said that they …

“are not particularly ‘Markan’ in style, so perhaps ‘Mark later emended his own text—just as Clement said!’”

I was also pleased to notice that Burke makes the same objection as I do on Craig Evans’ dishonesty when presenting the material. Burke says the following about Evans’ presentation:

“He writes that in the gospel ‘Jesus teaches a naked young man’ (but the youth is not naked) and later ‘Jesus in the nude instructs a young convert’ (nor is Jesus nude). Such flustering over a ‘gay Jesus’ is reminiscent of the controversy over Tinky-winky, the gay Teletubbie, and the unsavoury relationship between Spongebob and Patrick. These all seem to reflect the anxieties of the viewer/reader and have little basis in reality. Evans also notes along the way some other dubious arguments for forgery: the presence of mildew and mold spots on the manuscript (all we have are photographs; the nature of these “spots” cannot be determined), the forger’s tremor (which is not apparent in the better photographs), and Carlson’s report from a professional handwriting expert (which has been shown to have been edited to strengthen his position).”

I consider Evans to be very ill-informed on this subject, and he actually does not work as a scholar in this area as he is presenting outright falsehoods and also continues to put forward arguments that already have been shown to be faulty. I cannot see how he by now could be ignorant of this, and the only conclusion that can be made from this is that he is using the arguments for apologetic reasons only.

Burke tells us that he “had no firm view about Secret Mark’s authenticity” when he went to the symposium:

“Now that the symposium has concluded, I am convinced Smith did not create the text; rather, he found it at Mar Saba exactly as he claimed.”

He also reports on the audience’s opinion:

“By the end of the morning, the argument for forgery seemed to be convincing many of the audience members at the symposium. The coincidences that were unsettling Evans were unsettling others also. But the afternoon session included a paper that swung opinion toward authenticity, and convinced me once and for all that Smith did not, indeed could not, have forged the text.”

Roger Viklund, 2011-04-15

Larry W. Hurtado’s arguments that Secret Mark is a forgery

Larry W. Hurtado

Larry W. Hurtado

See also My Follow-up on Larry Hurtado’s Follow-up on Secret Mark

Larry W. Hurtado has published a blog post on the Secret Gospel of Mark (“Secret Mark”: Heat and (Insufficient) Light), being called attention to by the recent conference at York University Toronto on Secret Mark, which he did not attend. I first spotted this at Stephan Huller’s blog.

Hurtado who wrote the foreword to Stephen Carlson’s book The Gospel Hoax, continues to support Carlson’s argument and he is a firm believer in the letter’s inauthenticity. He also says that the “hoax question … isn’t the only question, and it certainly isn’t the case that everything else depends on”. He therefore reiterates a few points from his own book, Lord Jesus Christ:  Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Eerdmans, 2003), 433-37 and lists them in four points.

  • It remains curious that this is the only putative letter of Clement of Alexandria to survive, when he is reported to have written many.

Is not this a rather odd argument? Statistically and mathematically this is not an argument at all in favour of inauthenticity. If this letter would never have been found, then no letter at all would have survived and yet this would also have been quite normal, since this then would have been the way it was. And how many letters should have survived, before the one containing Secret Mark would not have been curious? One, two, three …?

  • It is also curious how this putative letter would have survived somehow from ca. 200 CE down at least to the date of the printed book into which it was written, with no other reference to it (even though it purports to refer to an otherwise unknown version of Mark).

This on the other hand could be seen as a valid argument, at least superficially. Yet it still is not an argument strictly statistically, since you always need to compare it to something else. It is all about probabilities.

In Sweden we had a comedian (among other things he was) named Tage Danielsson, who performed a very famous sketch regarding the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Harrisburg. He said in my translation the following on probability calculus:

“They are for example very different before and after. I mean, before Harrisburg, it was highly improbable that what happened in Harrisburg would happen, but as soon as it had happened, it suddenly became so one hundred percent probable that it was almost certain that it had happened. But only almost certain. This is the strange part. It is as if they mean that what happened in Harrisburg was so incredibly unlikely so in reality it probably did not happen.”

All the Christian scriptures we know of and have references to are scriptures that we know of and have references to. Then there are those Christian scriptures which we do not know of and have no references to. They are probably in number exceeding those we know of. And then there are scriptures which we previously did not know of but have come to know of – for instance the Egerton Gospel. This does not mean that this Gospel fragment is an alleged forgery. As soon as we find a new text which we previously did not know of, then in Tage Daniellson’s words, it suddenly becomes so one hundred percent probable that it is almost certain that it has existed. But only almost certain.

  • It is further curious that some scholars (e.g., Helmut Koester) take the purported excerpts of a “Secret Mark” as stemming from a version of Mark supposedly earlier than the familiar text.  Analysis of the excepts [sic! excerpts] has convinced a number of scholars that it is a pastiche of phrases from Mark and John in particular.  Also, the excerpts seem to depend upon and expand passages in Mark, especially the reference to the unidentified “young man” in Mark 14:51-52 where Jesus is arrested.  The ancient copying/transmission of texts tended more to resolve difficulties rather than to create them, and to explain/expand narrative scenes, not so much to make them puzzling.  So, on these bases, the purported excepts [sic! excerpts] of “Secret Mark” are (whether ancient or modern in origin) more likely secondary, not indicative of a version of Mark earlier than the familiar text.

What an argument! How could Koester (and also someone like me) take “Secret Mark” as stemming from a version of Mark supposedly earlier than the familiar text when “a number of scholars” are convinced “that it is a pastiche” forgery? The argument that “Secret Mark” would be a pastiche “of phrases from Mark and John in particular” are not convincing (see my article The pastiche forgery of Secret Mark, as presented by Francis Watson). Yet, this is not the startling assertion, but that the fact that it even could be considered as an argument that a number of scholars are convinced. Of course this is no argument at all; no more than an argument that a number of scholars are convinced of the opposite is.

It is also no more than a suggestion that “the excerpts seem to depend upon and expand passages in Mark”, since the most obvious interpretation is the other way round. They look Markan because they were written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Mark. It is strange how often forgery proponents try to turn the arguments upside down. What looks Markan or Clementine are forgeries, since a clever counterfeiter would have known how to imitate Mark and Clement. But the best these types of arguments could do is to oppose the argument of authenticity. If something looks like it was written by a certain author, then this strengthen that this author also wrote this. To say that a clever forger could imitate the style only shows that it could have been a forgery. But in itself it is no argument for inauthenticty.

  • It is finally curious that some people seem to stake so much on an unprovenanced and unverified text, for which we now have available only purported photos.  This hardly seems a promising basis on which to build any theories about Mark or early Christianity.

Here of course Hurtado does not even try to argue for inauthenticty. He only tries to throw suspicion on the text and suggest that we should not deal with it. But if Clement attests to this Secret Gospel of Mark, this of course would give the text both provenance and verification.

But this is really not that important, because one wing among the Christians prevailed, and they decided what was authoritative and what was not. Just because the Church Fathers did not deal with some of the scriptures (at least not openly), does not mean they did not exist.

So neither of these arguments gives any strength to the forgery hypothesis.

See also My Follow-up on Larry Hurtado’s Follow-up on Secret Mark

Roger Viklund, 2011-05-13

On the Secret Mark Conference and Hunter at Mar Saba

Below I will present a new piece of information on Hunter, so don’t miss it!

franciswatson2

Francis Watson

Poisoning the well – that seems to be the tactic among at least some of the Secret Mark forgery proponents. When there really are no arguments left for forgery and especially one done by Morton Smith, the tactic seems to be just to throw suspicion on Morton Smith. This was my impression after having read Francis Watson’s (I would not call it an article) latest contribution Beyond Reasonable Doubt: A Response to Allan J. Pantuck in BAR, where he very poorly defended his position when challenged by Allan Pantuck (Solving the Mysterion of Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark). It actually looked like he had no defense for the arguments he had rehashed from for instance Stephen Carlson. Still his ”hope and expectation is that it will be increasingly ignored by scholars”; which is a way of poisoning the well.

It just is not enough to say that Pantuck’s response “does not amount to much” because Jesus was “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.”This is no real defense for his position as no one in the preserved Secret Mark text is said to be nude, and it is just a way to hint at Morton Smith’s unproven homosexuality and even more unproven linger to destroy Christianity by inventing a clever gay party with Jesus and the youth. This is just a way to poison the well and to maintain your position without any factual evidence. It just is not enough to say that “my argument does not assert or require a total continuity between Smith’s views pre- and post-discovery”.

What has happened, and what some like Peter Jeffery has already noticed, is that there is a turning of the tide and a shift in position. When Carlson published his book The Gospel Hoax in 2005, many people seem to have been convinced that it now was proven that the letter was a forgery and that Morton Smith did it. Now, I do not know how many were convinced, but at least those shouting out the loudest were convinced. In time, however, Carlson’s arguments were demolished one by one by especially Scott Brown and later by Allan Pantuck, and Carlson decided to withdraw from the scene without even saying goodbye. Still his arguments were recycled although they in reality already had been as thoroughly refuted as one can expect, when they often were not based on any actual evidence but just possibilities in order to throw suspicion on Smith. How can you refute insinuations?

There has been a shift in position and now the forgery proponents are on the defense, trying to defend their suspicion-throwing, still without any evidence to back it up. That is probably the reason for Watson’s lame attempt to defend his position. He has nothing to back it up with.

And then there was the Secret Mark conference in Toronto this weekend, which I of course could not attend on the other side of the globe (see: York Christian Apocrypha Symposium Series). So I will only refer to what I have heard and been told and also has read about. Apparently, according to Allan Pantuck in a private e-mail, my work on the forger’s tremor was discussed very favorably by Tony Burke and others, which pleases me. After all, I did make a small contribution in destroying the one “evidence” which seemed to be objective, based on some sort of controllable fact; the one evidence which was found most convincing by most people (also by me). (See:  Tremors, or Just an Optical Illusion? and Reclaiming Clement’s Letter to Theodoros) It all just came down to Stephan Carlson having been misled by using printed screened images instead of real photographs (or at least scanned photographs) and thereby seeing tremors which only were the result of the images being screened for the printing process.

At the conference Allan Pantuck in a paper made a reply to Craig Evans’ original talk; a paper I have read. The two issues in Evans’ talk which Pantuck responded to were basically the same as the ones discussed by Watson so I won’t bother you with this once again. I have already expressed my doubts concerning Evans’ ignorance of this subject (One Thousand and One Untruths). Evans is rehashing what Watson was rehashing from Carlson which he was rehashing from others. Morton Smith read a spy novel by James Hunter and decided to imitate some of the plot and some of its wording and make a similar forgery as the one presented in the book; then go to the Mar Saba monastery and plant it there in order to destroy Christianity. I have written on this on several occasions (see for instance: Allan J. Pantuck on the Secret Gospel of Mark) and find the ideas to be extremely incomprehensible.

But Pantuck presents a new piece of evidence. James Hogg Hunter actually went to Mar Saba himself. Pantuck has spoken to Hunter’s son and he told him that his father went to the monastery in 1931. The son had read the 1931 tour material which said that James Hunter in the early morning hours …

“set out from Jerusalem on a donkey with a special permit obtained from the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem. Carrying food and water into the desert his small party journeyed through the valley of Hennon – the Gehenna of the New Testament, then through the valley of Fire, and three hours later came to the [Mar Saba] monastery founded by Euthyarius in 474 AD.” (Allan J. Pantuck in his reply to Evans, p. 11)

Of course this makes the proposed parallels even more understandable. It would come as no surprise that when dealing with the same subject, and when the events took place at same site, there will be some generic parallels. But if the author of the novel also visited the same places as the discoverer of the manuscript did, then of course the chances of even more direct parallels further increases. Both Smith and Hunter must have been riding the same path through the valley, seeing the monastery in a similar light from a similar angle. Talking to the monks and learning of the history of the monastery with all its legends. And one of the most important issues is of course ancient manuscripts and all the inciting stories of rare manuscripts, hidden in caves in order to save them for posterity.

If Hunter then later came up with the idea to write a novel where some of the action takes place at Mar Saba and Smith later visits the same monastery and eventually will make an astounding discovery there, the chances that they both will refer to the issues of Mar Saba in a similar way seems to be quite high. They must have seen the same things, heard the same stories and learned the same things. If I go to Paris and report of the surrounding of the Eifel tower, there is a good chance that it at least superficially will resemble the reports given by other people who also have been to Paris.

Roger Viklund, 2011-05-01

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

Den yngling Jesus uppväcker i Hemliga Markusevangeliet är Lasaros

Signaturen Jimmy hävdar i denna kommentar att det inte skulle kunna vara Lasaros som återuppväcks i Hemliga Markusevangeliet. Jag besvarade den kommentaren men anser att frågan förtjänar ett eget inlägg så att det inte ”drunknar” i kommentarerna.

Det följande inlägget är i stort sett detsamma som min tidigare utredning i frågan i kapitlet Uppväckandet av Lasaros i artikeln Den symboliskt utformade förlagan till Markusevangeliet – populärt benämnd Hemliga Markusevangeliet.

Munkklostret Mar Saba

I det brev som Morton Smith hittade i munkklostret Mar Saba 1958 besvarar kyrkofader Klemens av Alexandria tillsynes ett brev skrivet av en i övrigt okänd Theodoros. Eftersom Theodoros uppenbarligen oroar sig över påståenden gjorda av medlemmar i en sekt vid namn karpokratianerna om att det skulle finnas ett Markusevangelium, där det bland annat berättas om en ”naken man med en naken man”, låter Klemens lugna Theodoros. Markus skrev visserligen sitt evangelium i två olika långa versioner och i det längre mystiska evangeliet fanns material avsett för dem som var längre komna i sin utveckling och detta evangelium ”läses endast för dem som är i färd med att invigas i de stora mysterierna”. Fast Theodoros behöver inte oroa sig över att där skulle stå något om en ”naken man med en naken man”. För att bevisa att så inte är fallet citerar Klemens den passage som detta handlar om ur detta mystiska eller hemliga evangelium. Syftet måste rimligen ha varit att visa att vare sig Jesus eller ynglingen är nakna med varandra. Klemens skriver:

Efter ”Och de var på väg upp mot Jerusalem” och det följande fram till ”efter tre dagar skall han uppstå” står det ordagrant så här:

”Och de kommer till Bethania. Och där fanns en kvinna, vilkens broder hade dött. Och hon kom och föll på knä för Jesus och säger till honom, ’Davids son, ha förbarmande över mig.’ Men lärjungarna klandrade henne. Och Jesus blev vred och gick iväg med henne till trädgården, där graven var. Och genast hördes från graven ett stort rop. Och Jesus gick fram och rullade undan stenen från dörren till graven och gick genast in där ynglingen var, han sträckte ut handen och reste honom, sedan han fattat handen. Men ynglingen såg på honom och fattade kärlek till honom och började bönfalla honom att han skulle vara med honom. Och de gick ut ur graven och gick in i ynglingens hus. Ty han var rik. Och efter sex dagar befallde Jesus honom. Och när det blivit afton kommer ynglingen till honom klädd i ett linnetyg på bara kroppen och stannade hos honom denna natt. Ty Jesus undervisade honom om Guds rikes mysterium. Men därefter steg han upp och återvände till andra sidan Jordan.”

Efter dessa ord följer ”och Jakob och Johannes går fram till honom” och hela [det] stycket. Men ”naken med naken” och det andra som du skrivit om finns inte. Och efter ”Och han kommer till Jeriko” följer bara ”och där var systern till den yngling som Jesus älskade och hans moder och Salome, och Jesus tog inte emot dem.” Men de många andra sakerna du skrivit både verkar vara och är lögner. Den sanna förklaringen och den förklaring som är enligt den sanna filosofin är alltså …[Min översättning]

Sidorna 2 och 3 av Klemensbrevet, vari Klemens citerar den del av Hemliga Markusevangeliet som finns återgivet i översättning ovan.

En omedelbar iakttagelse man gör är den stora likheten mellan uppväckandet av den unge mannen från de döda i Hemliga Markusevangeliet och uppväckandet av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet (11:1ff). Berättelserna är så pass lika att det måste ses som sannolikt att det egentligen är samma berättelse. Däremot namnges inte ynglingen som Jesus uppväcker i Hemliga Markusevangeliet. Det sägs alltså inte uttryckligen att det var Lasaros som Jesus uppväckte. Likheterna mellan berättelserna är som följer:

  1. I båda evangelierna, Hemliga Markusevangeliet och Johannesevangeliet, sker uppväckandet av den unge mannen efter att Jesus gått från Galileen till Judeen och därifrån till ”andra sidan Jordan”.
  2. I båda fallen är lärjungarna före uppväckandet rädda för vad som skall hända om Jesus blir gripen (Mark 10:32, Joh 11:8 ).
  3. Scenen utspelas båda gångerna i en ort vid namn Bethania, men det rör sig inte om samma Bethania (mer om detta strax).
  4. I Johannesevangeliet möter den avlidnes två systrar Jesus på vägen, medan det i Hemliga Markusevangeliet är en syster som möter Jesus på vägen.
  5. I båda berättelserna visar systrarna Jesus till graven, men i Hemliga Markusevangeliet uppväcker Jesus den döde genom att ta i honom, medan han i Johannesevangeliet ropar ut honom.
  6. Det är också endast i dessa båda berättelser som de som återuppväcks ligger i gravar.
  7. I Hemliga Markusevangeliet följer sedan Jesus den uppväckte mannen till hans hus. Jesus följer också Lasaros till dennes hus om än inte direkt efter att ha uppväckt honom.
  8. Ynglingen i Hemliga Markusevangeliet är rik, uppenbarligen eftersom han ägde ett hus. Även Lasaros ägde ett hus och bör således ha varit rik.

Tydligt är att vi här har att göra med samma berättelse och jag hävdar att den unge mannen i Hemliga Markusevangeliet är Lasaros och att den syster som möter Jesus på vägen i Hemliga Markusevangeliet och också försöker träffa honom i Jeriko är en av de två systrarna till Lasaros (Marta och Maria), då rimligen Maria. Detta betyder dock inte nödvändigtvis att jag ser dem som historiska personer.

Hemliga Markusevangeliet ger också perspektiv åt en episod i Johannesevangeliet, den då Thomas, som kallades Tvillingen, i stället för att hjälpa Jesus med att väcka upp Lasaros från de döda säger till de andra lärjungarna: ”Låt oss gå med för att dö med honom.”

Då sade Jesus rent ut till dem: ”Lasaros är död. Och för er skull, för att ni skall tro, är jag glad att jag inte var där. Men låt oss nu gå till honom.” Tomas, som kallades Tvillingen, sade till de andra lärjungarna: ”Låt oss gå med för att dö med honom.” (Joh 11:14–16)

Thomas uppmanar alltså de andra lärjungarna att följa Jesus till Lasaros och där dö, för att sedan förhoppningsvis likt Lasaros återuppstå. Detta går knappast att tolka bokstavligt, däremot symboliskt. Den rimliga tolkningen i ljuset av Hemliga Markusevangeliet är att här avses en invigning i de inre, större mysterierna. Se också min artikel Gnosis och den gnostiska kristendomen.

I ljuset av detta framstår berättelsen om uppväckandet av den unge mannen från de döda som en symbolisk berättelse med uppenbara gnostiska inslag. På samma sätt som Thomas vill dö för att återuppstå, uppstår också den unge mannen. Efter att Jesus uppväckt honom från ”de döda”, stannar de uppe hela natten, och Jesus lär honom Guds rikes mysterium. Det kan knappast sägas tydligare utan att tala klarspråk. Jesus inviger honom i mysterierna på samma sätt som Klemens från Alexandria i brevet hävdar att den hemliga undervisningen användes i de Stora Mysterierna där ”Herrens hierofantiska undervisning” förmedlas. Hierofant är namnet på en kultledare i de antika mysterierna. Hierofanten förmedlande esoterisk undervisning och var den som i samband med invigningsceremonier tolkade de heliga symbolerna och ledde och övervakade adepten under själva ceremonin. Alltså rör det sig om sådan undervisning som var så hemlig att den inte fick skrivas ner ens i Hemliga Markusevangeliet.

Noterbart är att uppväckandet av ynglingen i Hemliga Markusevangeliet och av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet i båda fallen äger rum i Bethania. Fast det är inte samma Bethania utan två skilda byar men med samma namn. I Johannesevangeliet är det ett Bethania som låg ca 3 km från Jerusalems centrum; i Hemliga Markusevangeliet (i kombination med det som sägs i Markusevangeliet) ett Bethania som ligger i Pereen (Peraea) öster om Jordan och öster om Jeriko mellan Döda havet och Galileiska sjön

Oavsett hur man väljer att tolka denna information, är likheterna mellan uppväckandet av ynglingen i Hemliga Markusevangeliet och av Lasaros i Johannesevangeliet så stora att de inte kan ha uppkommit av en slump. Antingen skrev den ene av den andre, eller den andre av den ene, eller så byggde de båda på en gemensam tradition/berättelse.

I Johannesevangeliet benämns den individ som Jesus uppväcker från de döda Lasaros, vilket betyder ”Gud [El] hjälper”. Jag betraktar denna individ som uppdiktad och anser att hans namn är valt för att spegla en funktion, då i förhållande till Jesus som betyder ”Gud [JHVH] räddar/hjälper”. Det betyder att heller inte ynglingen i Hemliga Markusevangeliet är en reell person. Men oavsett vilket torde det stå klart att det rör sig om samma gestalt i både Hemliga Markusevangeliet och Johannesevangeliet.

Roger Viklund, 2011-02-12

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