Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

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Secret Alias
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Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:28 am

While writing in the other thread I'd thought I'd mention this. I think the most powerful argument against the authenticity of Secret Mark is that it is unmentioned in patristic literature. I think that's a fair argument. If scholars who want to promote forgery stuck to that fairly they couldn't then go back and say that this or that was stolen from this or that document or author. I mean, either Smith created something completely out of his imagination (a 'secret Gospel of Mark') or he slavishly 'borrowed' from the other canonical gospels to create a 'pastiche gospel' or composed his lost Markan pericope from contemporary studies of the gospel of Mark or better yet 'stole' the idea of letters of Clement from Eusebius etc. To argue that two things at the opposite end of the spectrum were true at the same time seems a rather weak argument in favor of forgery.

The idea then is that Smith learned about a collection of letters in the Jerusalem library used by Eusebius from Eusebius. Cool. The contents of those letters are basically unknown. The idea pops in his head that Clement 'could have written' a letter about a gospel no one ever heard of before and that Eusebius never mentions - odd - and sets out to learn how to copy Clement's style and Mark's style by cobbling together bits and pieces from the canonical gospels within a Markan framework narrated by Clement.

Clement mentions for instance various other apocryphal gospels by name. Why not, if Smith was so slavishly devoted to known commodities (i.e. so 'scholarly') why make the gospel referenced by Clement specifically Markan? Clement has no known preference for Mark in his writings. It seems rather bold and out of keeping for Clement.

Of course people do things that are out of step with expectations. It just doesn't seem to be the move made by a master forger who studied Clement and Mark in such detail that he managed to pull off a master forgery. Such slavish devotion one would expect would lead to an attempt to recreate one of the known gospels or texts which Clement cites by name - such as the Gospel of the Egyptians. To have it that Smith was inconsistent in his application of his necessarily vast known of Clement and Mark to create Clement's devotion to a secret gospel of Mark seems wholly out of the step with the forger in other respects.

Of course one can argue that Clement could have been inconsistent or held opinions outside of those known through his other writings (i.e. a devotion to secret Mark) Smith could have anticipated that argument and made the document 'seem' more authentic by introducing this unknown commodity (i.e. a devotion to secret Mark). It just seems rather far fetched to me. I would think that a forgery is less 'organic,' less prone to mad variation from reality especially when the author pays such meticulous attention to reproducing both Clement's and Mark's writing style in all other respects.

At the very least critics have to chose between one or two arguments about Morton Smith - i.e. either he was a meticulous mimic or an creative genius. It doesn't seem to me at least to be reasonable to suppose both 'spirits' could have existed in the same soul. Indeed as I have often noted scholars as a rule lack creativity. The slavish devotion to studying other peoples words makes it difficult for them to find their own.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:46 pm

Secret Alias wrote:While writing in the other thread I'd thought I'd mention this. I think the most powerful argument against the authenticity of Secret Mark is that it is unmentioned in patristic literature. I think that's a fair argument. If scholars who want to promote forgery stuck to that fairly they couldn't then go back and say that this or that was stolen from this or that document or author. I mean, either Smith created something completely out of his imagination (a 'secret Gospel of Mark') or he slavishly 'borrowed' from the other canonical gospels to create a 'pastiche gospel' or composed his lost Markan pericope from contemporary studies of the gospel of Mark or better yet 'stole' the idea of letters of Clement from Eusebius etc. To argue that two things at the opposite end of the spectrum were true at the same time seems a rather weak argument in favor of forgery.

The idea then is that Smith learned about a collection of letters in the Jerusalem library used by Eusebius from Eusebius. Cool. The contents of those letters are basically unknown. The idea pops in his head that Clement 'could have written' a letter about a gospel no one ever heard of before and that Eusebius never mentions - odd - and sets out to learn how to copy Clement's style and Mark's style by cobbling together bits and pieces from the canonical gospels within a Markan framework narrated by Clement.
IIUC there is nothing in Eusebius to suggest that he knew of letters by Clement.
The earliest evidence seems to be brief quotations in the later Sacra Parallela supposedly from a collection of letters by Clement of Alexandria.
Secret Alias wrote: Clement mentions for instance various other apocryphal gospels by name. Why not, if Smith was so slavishly devoted to known commodities (i.e. so 'scholarly') why make the gospel referenced by Clement specifically Markan? Clement has no known preference for Mark in his writings. It seems rather bold and out of keeping for Clement.
In Clement's sermon Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved he does base his commentary on the Markan version of the pericope of the rich young ruler.
Secret Alias wrote: Of course people do things that are out of step with expectations. It just doesn't seem to be the move made by a master forger who studied Clement and Mark in such detail that he managed to pull off a master forgery. Such slavish devotion one would expect would lead to an attempt to recreate one of the known gospels or texts which Clement cites by name - such as the Gospel of the Egyptians. To have it that Smith was inconsistent in his application of his necessarily vast known of Clement and Mark to create Clement's devotion to a secret gospel of Mark seems wholly out of the step with the forger in other respects.

Of course one can argue that Clement could have been inconsistent or held opinions outside of those known through his other writings (i.e. a devotion to secret Mark) Smith could have anticipated that argument and made the document 'seem' more authentic by introducing this unknown commodity (i.e. a devotion to secret Mark). It just seems rather far fetched to me. I would think that a forgery is less 'organic,' less prone to mad variation from reality especially when the author pays such meticulous attention to reproducing both Clement's and Mark's writing style in all other respects.

At the very least critics have to chose between one or two arguments about Morton Smith - i.e. either he was a meticulous mimic or an creative genius. It doesn't seem to me at least to be reasonable to suppose both 'spirits' could have existed in the same soul. Indeed as I have often noted scholars as a rule lack creativity. The slavish devotion to studying other peoples words makes it difficult for them to find their own.
I have wondered whether the suggestion by CH Roberts in The Birth of the Codex 1954 may be relevant. Roberts suggested that a very early manuscript of Mark played a central role in the beginning of Egyptian Christianity. See for discussion History of the Bible

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Re: Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Mar 21, 2017 11:04 pm

Well that's a start at least. Was Roberts's suggestion productive enough to give birth to a secret gospel of Mark? I guess I will have to read it.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by andrewcriddle » Sat Mar 25, 2017 2:46 am

andrewcriddle wrote: I have wondered whether the suggestion by CH Roberts in The Birth of the Codex 1954 may be relevant. Roberts suggested that a very early manuscript of Mark played a central role in the beginning of Egyptian Christianity. See for discussion History of the Bible

Andrew Criddle
I'm sorry I've got the bibliographical details wrong.

CH Roberts published The Codex in 1954 in Proceedings of the British Academy volume 40 1954 and it was separately published as an offprint in 1955.
The Birth of the Codex is a revised version published in 1983 by Roberts and Skeat, which largely retracts the idea of the early manuscript of Mark in Alexandria.

The version possibly relevant to Secret Mark is The Codex 1954 and 1955.

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Re: Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by rakovsky » Sat Jan 12, 2019 6:13 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:28 am
While writing in the other thread I'd thought I'd mention this. I think the most powerful argument against the authenticity of Secret Mark is that it is unmentioned in patristic literature. I think that's a fair argument. If scholars who want to promote forgery stuck to that fairly they couldn't then go back and say that this or that was stolen from this or that document or author. I mean, either Smith created something completely out of his imagination (a 'secret Gospel of Mark') or he slavishly 'borrowed' from the other canonical gospels to create a 'pastiche gospel' or composed his lost Markan pericope from contemporary studies of the gospel of Mark or better yet 'stole' the idea of letters of Clement from Eusebius etc. To argue that two things at the opposite end of the spectrum were true at the same time seems a rather weak argument in favor of forgery.
I don't see a contradiction. If a person created a pastiche using parts of canonical gospels, studies of Mark, etc. in modern times, then the forgery that he created would not be mentioned in patristic literature. And the absence of mention of Clement's Letter and of Secret Mark being used by Alexandria's orthodox Church would be evidence favoring (although not totally proving) that the Letter was forged.

One can argue that it's a pastiche and also that it's unmentioned in Patristic literature, the lack of mention being one piece of evidence.
The idea then is that Smith learned about a collection of letters in the Jerusalem library used by Eusebius from Eusebius. Cool. The contents of those letters are basically unknown. The idea pops in his head that Clement 'could have written' a letter about a gospel no one ever heard of before and that Eusebius never mentions - odd - and sets out to learn how to copy Clement's style and Mark's style by cobbling together bits and pieces from the canonical gospels within a Markan framework narrated by Clement.

Clement mentions for instance various other apocryphal gospels by name. Why not, if Smith was so slavishly devoted to known commodities (i.e. so 'scholarly') why make the gospel referenced by Clement specifically Markan? Clement has no known preference for Mark in his writings. It seems rather bold and out of keeping for Clement.
To answer the question, Smith could have made the gospel referenced Markan because of the importance of Mark due to Markan priority. In this scenario, Morton wanted to make the argument that his teachings in Secret Mark represented something especially ancient in Christianity, and therefore more valuable.
Of course people do things that are out of step with expectations. It just doesn't seem to be the move made by a master forger who studied Clement and Mark in such detail that he managed to pull off a master forgery. Such slavish devotion one would expect would lead to an attempt to recreate one of the known gospels or texts which Clement cites by name - such as the Gospel of the Egyptians. To have it that Smith was inconsistent in his application of his necessarily vast known of Clement and Mark to create Clement's devotion to a secret gospel of Mark seems wholly out of the step with the forger in other respects.
Yes, it can be inconsistent. I just read in Peter Jeffrey's The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled that M. Smith chose for one of his publishers "Da Free John", the leader of a strange sex cult in the Pacific islands accused of sexual exploitation of members. This choice would seem quite strange for such a respectable Columbia University professor writing very serious academic literature. Sometimes things like this are wholly out of step with expectations.
At the very least critics have to chose between one or two arguments about Morton Smith - i.e. either he was a meticulous mimic or an creative genius. It doesn't seem to me at least to be reasonable to suppose both 'spirits' could have existed in the same soul. Indeed as I have often noted scholars as a rule lack creativity. The slavish devotion to studying other peoples words makes it difficult for them to find their own.
I don't know why someone couldn't imagine that he was a creative genius who meticulously mimicked Clement's writing style in order to draft a Letter about secret rites, the latter being one of M.Smith's academic interests IIRC.

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Re: Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by rakovsky » Sat Jan 12, 2019 6:21 pm

andrewcriddle wrote:
Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:46 pm
I have wondered whether the suggestion by CH Roberts in The Birth of the Codex 1954 may be relevant. Roberts suggested that a very early manuscript of Mark played a central role in the beginning of Egyptian Christianity. See for discussion History of the Bible

Andrew Criddle
Andrew,
I checked the link that you gave and the pages don't discuss an early manuscript of Mark in Egypt having been an earlier version of Mark's gospel. Could you lay out better what Roberts says?

Nonetheless, if Roberts' book mimics the Mar Saba Letter on the topic of Mark's drafting, I could see a connection because they both were published in about the same time - 1954 and then 1958-1960, respectively.

My research on the prophecies of the Messiah's resurrection: http://rakovskii.livejournal.com

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Re: Having It Both Ways With Secret Mark

Post by andrewcriddle » Tue Jan 15, 2019 11:55 am

rakovsky wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 6:21 pm
andrewcriddle wrote:
Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:46 pm
I have wondered whether the suggestion by CH Roberts in The Birth of the Codex 1954 may be relevant. Roberts suggested that a very early manuscript of Mark played a central role in the beginning of Egyptian Christianity. See for discussion History of the Bible

Andrew Criddle
Andrew,
I checked the link that you gave and the pages don't discuss an early manuscript of Mark in Egypt having been an earlier version of Mark's gospel. Could you lay out better what Roberts says?

Nonetheless, if Roberts' book mimics the Mar Saba Letter on the topic of Mark's drafting, I could see a connection because they both were published in about the same time - 1954 and then 1958-1960, respectively.
Sorry. I didn't mean to suggest that Roberts meant an earlier version of Mark.
Roberts was suggesting that a very early manuscript of canonical Mark arrived in Egypt.

Andrew Criddle

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