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Ash Wednesday (2)



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Ash Wednesday




Yes, it sort of happened to me. 聽I was a Liberal Arts student at St Andrews University from 1966 to 1970, studying Mediaeval History – leading to an Honours Degree (MA – Master of Arts).

I had a tremendous crush on a lovely fellow student, Dorothy, who came from Stockport. 聽She was a devout Roman Catholic (not that devout when it came to …… hey, this was the “Swinging Sixties”, and we were young, single, and free!)

Anyhow, we had arranged on one Ash Wednesday to meet for lunch – probably, at the Student Union for a gourmet meal of pie beans and chips….. yes, I know that Catholics shouldn’t eat meat on Ash Wednesday, but the University’s Scotch Pies had a filling that had as much meat in it as my dental fillings have. 馃槃

So, I met her near the RC chapel, and, of course, immediately blurted out, “You’ve got a dirty smudge on your forehead!” 聽And that’s de truth, Yer Honour.

With it being a Wednsday, there were no classes nor tutorials in the afternoon; so, after lunch, we had a bit of R & R – and the “smudge” quickly rubbed off! but that’s another story………馃槉


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Doubting Thomas


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July 25, 2014 · 11:08

Gospel Drouth


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August 14, 2013 · 07:27

Secret Gospel of Mark – The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery

Morton Smith’s demons聽November 18, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase

Like Stephen Carlson a year ago, Peter Jeffery is able to show how obvious it is that Morton Smith fabricated Clement’s letter to Theodore. One would think that Carlson exhausted all of Smith’s anachronisms (the “bald swindler” M. Madiotes, Morton Salt, and modern gays in the 1950s being arrested in public Gethsemanes), but Jeffery has spotted more:

* The three features of Secret Mark’s initiation rite — resurrection symbolism, a period of teaching followed by a night vigil, and the wearing of a white cloth — point to the Anglican Paschal liturgy as it was before the 1960s liturgical renewal movement. In addition, Clement and the Alexandrian church had a theology of baptism that was based not on the easter event of Jesus’ resurrection, but on the epiphany event of Jesus’ baptism by John. Secret Mark should thus have epiphany motifs (i.e. creation, the heavens opening with light, the descent of the Holy Spirit and fire, the seal of priestly and messianic anointings) rather than easter motifs (i.e. Pauline associations between baptism and resurrection).

* The homoeroticism in Secret Mark makes no sense in an ancient context. Adult males were supposed to pursue young boys/men, who in turn were supposed to acquiesce only after “playing hard to get” and only if the boy perceived that the sex would have intiatory value (i.e. that the man would go beyond sex and educate him in proper mores). But in Secret Mark, Jesus does not pursue the young man: just the opposite if anything, and this would have been shamefully unacceptable. Secret Mark was evidently written by a modern person who assumed that ancient homosexuality would have followed Plato’s model of an older teacher with a young disciple, but who didn’t quite understand how the roles played out — and such misunderstandings were common in academic circles before the work of K.J. Dover in the late 70s. (This would seem to improve on Carlson, who argued that the homoeroticism in Secret Mark makes no sense since Jesus and the young man are depicted as social peers. But a “young man”, however rich, suggests they’re not quite peers.)

* Clement’s letter is riddled with allusions to Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century play, Salome, and Wilde was a homosexual martyr to boot. In the play Salome does the “dance of the seven veils”, which is punned by Smith’s Clement, who writes about “the truth hidden by seven veils”. She is punned, in turn, by Smith’s Salome, whom Jesus rejects along with the rest of the female race.

On top of this, Jeffery catches Smith in some pretty amusing lies. A notable one: whereupon discovering Clement’s letter, Smith says he went to Vespers instead of staying to investigate his discovery, apparently forgetting what he said two pages earlier (in The Secret Gospel, p 10) — that he had stopped attending religious services because he no longer “responded” to them.

Jeffery examines Smith’s brief career as an Anglican priest, noting his excessively harsh judgments on homosexuals in a 1949 article — very severe by Anglican standards at the time. Any fool can make the diagnosis: Smith was going through his own sexual crisis that caused him to leave the priesthood a year later. Interestingly, in that same 1949 article, Smith referenced a 19th-century debate between Catholics and Protestants over whether Clement of Alexandria believed that lying was justified if it served the causes of the church. Quelle surprise: the letter to Theodore answers that very question.

Jeffery goes after Morton Smith pretty hard, unlike Carlson who seemed (at least in part) to respect or admire a man who had the skills to bamboozle so many academics. Jeffery expresses sorrow and contempt: Smith “became what he opposed: a hypocritical Clement who condoned lying for the sake of a fundamentalist sexology”; “a man in great personal pain”, who didn’t even understand himself despite pretensions to a superior gnosticism; a bitter academic, whose hoax stands as “the most grandiose and reticulated ‘F— You’ ever perpetuated in the long and vituperative history of scholarship”. He’s right about that last one, but whether Smith wrote his hoax more out of experimental amusement or angry revenge remains unclear.

The names Stephen Carlson and Peter Jeffery will soon become closely associated, and that’s a credit to them both. But who has the stronger case? Carlson has the edge with his forensic handwriting analysis. The Morton Salt exhibit (Carlson) and Anglican liturgical analysis (Jeffery) each point to Morton Smith in particular. Both address the homosexuality issue — which also puts Smith directly on the spot — though Jeffery more satisfyingly. Carlson insists on the pernicious nature of fakes, while Jeffery seems more interested in the perniciousness of Morton Smith himself. They complement each other perfectly, and stand as definitive twin debunkings of the Secret Mark hoax.

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Secret Gospel of Mark

Morton Smith

Morton Smith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Mar Saba Monestary 注讘专讬转: 诪谞讝专 诪专 住讘讗...

English: Mar Saba Monestary 注讘专讬转: 诪谞讝专 诪专 住讘讗, 注诇 讙讚转 谞讞诇 拽讚专讜谉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Letter of Clement of Alexandria to Th...

English: Letter of Clement of Alexandria to Theodore, where he quotes from the Secret Gospel of Mark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ancient Mar Saba monastery ca. 1900.

Ancient Mar Saba monastery ca. 1900. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Gnostic Society Library

Gnostic Scriptures and Fragments

The Secret Gospel of Mark: Commentary on Recent Scholarship

Archive Notes

This article discussing scholarly and popular response to Morton Smith’s discovery of聽聽聽聽聽 the Secret Gospel of Mark was originally published in Alexandria: The Journal for the聽聽聽聽聽 Western Cosmological Traditions, volume 3 (1995), pp. 103-129. Alexandria is edited聽聽聽聽聽 by David Fideler and is published by Phanes Press. The whole of this article is copyright聽聽聽聽聽聽 漏 1995 by Phanes Press. All rights reserved, including international rights.

The Strange Case of the Secret Gospel According to Mark: How Morton Smith’s Discovery of a Lost Letter 聽聽聽 by Clement of Alexandria Scandalized Biblical Scholarship

by Shawn Eyer

“Dear reader, do not be alarmed at the parallels between… magic and ancient聽聽聽聽聽 Christianity. Christianity never claimed to be original. It claimed . . . to be聽聽聽聽聽 true!” With these words in the New York Times Book Review, Pierson Parker reassured聽聽聽聽聽 the faithful American public that it need not be concerned with the latest news from the聽聽聽聽聽 obscure and bookish world of New Testament scholarship.[1] It was 1973, and the Biblical聽聽聽聽聽 studies community, as well as the popular press, was in a stir over a small manuscript聽聽聽聽聽 discovery that–to judge from the reactions of some–seemingly threatened to call down the聽聽聽聽聽 apocalypse. A newly-released book by Columbia University’s Morton Smith, presenting a聽聽聽聽聽 translation and interpretation of a fragment of a newly-recovered Secret Gospel of Mark,聽聽聽聽聽 was at the center of the controversy.

The Discovery (1958-1960)

In the spring of 1958 Smith, then a graduate student in Theology at Columbia聽聽聽聽聽 University, was invited to catalogue the manuscript holdings in the library of the Mar聽聽聽聽聽 Saba monastery, located twelve miles south of Jerusalem. Smith had been a guest of the聽聽聽聽聽 same hermitage years earlier, when he was stranded in Palestine by the conflagrations of聽聽聽聽聽 the second World War.

What Smith found during his task in the tower library surprised him. He discovered some聽聽聽聽聽 new scholia of Sophocles, for instance, and dozens of other manuscripts.[2] Despite these聽聽聽聽聽 finds, however, the beleaguered scholar soon resigned himself to what looked like a聽聽聽聽聽 reasonable conclusion: he would find nothing of major importance at Mar Saba. His malaise聽聽聽聽聽 evaporated one day as he first deciphered the manuscript that would always thereafter be聽聽聽聽聽 identified with him:

[. . . O]ne afternoon near the end of my stay, I found myself in my cell, staring聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 incredulously at a text written in a tiny scrawl. [. . . I]f this writing was what it聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 claimed to be, I had a hitherto unknown text by a writer of major significance for early聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 church history.[3]

What Smith then began photographing was a three-page handwritten addition penned into聽聽聽聽聽 the endpapers of a printed book, Isaac Voss’ 1646 edition of the Epistolae genuinae S.聽聽聽聽聽 Ignatii Martyris.[4] It identified itself as a letter by Clement of the Stromateis, i.e.,聽聽聽聽聽 Clement of Alexandria, the second-century church father well-known for his neo-platonic聽聽聽聽聽 applications of Christian belief. Clement writes “to Theodore,” congratulating聽聽聽聽聽 him for success in his disputes with the Carpocratians, an heterodoxical sect about which聽聽聽聽聽 little is known. Apparently in their conflict with Theodore, the Carpocratians appealed to聽聽聽聽聽 Mark’s gospel.

Clement responds by recounting a new story about the Gospel. After Peter’s death, Mark聽聽聽聽聽 brought his original gospel to Alexandria and wrote a “more spiritual gospel for the聽聽聽聽聽 use of those who were being perfected.” Clement says this text is kept by the聽聽聽聽聽 Alexandrian church for use only in the initiation into “the great mysteries.”

However, Carpocrates the heretic, by means of magical stealth, obtained a copy and聽聽聽聽聽 adapted it to his own ends. Because this version of the “secret” or聽聽聽聽聽 “mystery” gospel had been polluted with “shameless lies,” Clement聽聽聽聽聽 urges Theodore to deny its Markan authorship even under oath. “Not all true things聽聽聽聽聽 are to be said to all men,” he advises.

Theodore has asked questions about particular passages of the special Carpocratian聽聽聽聽聽 Gospel of Mark, and by way of reply Clement transcribes two sections which he claims have聽聽聽聽聽 been distorted by the heretics. The first fragment of the Secret Gospel of Mark, meant to聽聽聽聽聽 be inserted between Mark 10.34 and 35, reads:

They came to Bethany. There was one woman there whose brother had died. She came and聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 prostrated herself before Jesus and spoke to him. “Son of David, pity me!” But聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 the disciples rebuked her. Jesus was angry and went with her into the garden where the聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 tomb was. Immediately a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going up to it, Jesus聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 rolled the stone away from the door of the tomb, and immediately went in where the young聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 man was. Stretching out his hand, he lifted him up, taking hold his hand. And the youth,聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 looking intently at him, loved him and started begging him to let him remain with him. And聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 going out of the tomb, they went into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 six days Jesus gave him an order and, at evening, the young man came to him wearing聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 nothing but a linen cloth. And he stayed with him for the night, because Jesus taught him聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And then when he left he went back to the other side of聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 the Jordan.

Then a second fragment of Secret Mark is given, this time to be inserted into Mark聽聽聽聽聽 10.46. This has long been recognized as a narrative snag in Mark’s Gospel, as it awkwardly聽聽聽聽聽 reads, “Then they come to Jericho. As he was leaving Jericho with his聽聽聽聽聽 disciples…” This strange construction is not present in Secret Mark, which reads:

Then he came into Jericho. And the sister of the young man whom Jesus loved was there聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 with his mother and Salome, but Jesus would not receive them.

Just as Clement prepares to reveal the “real interpretation” of these verses聽聽聽聽聽 to Theodore, the copyist discontinues and Smith’s discovery is, sadly, complete.

Smith stopped briefly in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to share his discovery with聽聽聽聽聽 Gerschom Scholem.[5] He then returned to America where he sought the opinions of his聽聽聽聽聽 mentors Erwin Goodenough and Arthur Darby Nock. “God knows what you’ve got hold聽聽聽聽聽 of,” Goodenough said.[6] “They made up all sorts of stuff in the fifth聽聽聽聽聽 century,” said Nock. “But, I say, it is exciting.”[7]

At the 1960 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Morton Smith聽聽聽聽聽 announced his discovery to the scholarly community, openly presenting a translation and聽聽聽聽聽 discussion of the Clementine letter. A well-written account of his presentation, with a聽聽聽聽聽 photograph of the Mar Saba monastery, appeared the next morning on the front page of The聽聽聽聽聽 New York Times.[8] A list of the seventy-five manuscripts Smith catalogued appeared聽聽聽聽聽 the same year in the journal Archaeology[9] as well as the Greek Orthodox聽聽聽聽聽 Patriarchate journal, Nea Sion.[10] And Morton Smith embarked on a decade of聽聽聽聽聽 meticulous investigation into the nature of his find.

The Reaction (1973–1982)

While there may seem nothing particularly scandalous about the apocryphal episodes of聽聽聽聽聽 Secret Mark in and of themselves, the release of the material to the general public聽聽聽聽聽 aroused a great deal of popular and scholarly derision. Smith wrote two books on the聽聽聽聽聽 subject: first, the voluminous and intricate scholarly analysis Clement of Alexandria聽聽聽聽聽 and a Secret Gospel of Mark, and then The Secret Gospel, a thin and聽聽聽聽聽 conversational popular account of the discovery and its interpretation. The first book was聽聽聽聽聽 delivered to the Harvard University Press in 1966, but was very slow at going through the聽聽聽聽聽 press.[11] Smith’s popular treatment, however, was released by Harper and Row in the聽聽聽聽聽 summer of 1973. This is the version that most scholars had in their hands first. What did聽聽聽聽聽 it say that was so shocking?

Smith’s analysis of the Secret Mark text–and consequently the wider body of literature聽聽聽聽聽 bearing on the history of early Christianity–brought him to consider unusual聽聽聽聽聽 possibilities. Because Secret Mark presents a miracle story, this meant a particular聽聽聽聽聽 concentration upon material of a like type. Smith was working outside of the traditional聽聽聽聽聽 school of Biblical criticism which automatically regarded all miracle accounts as聽聽聽聽聽 mythological inventions of the early Christian communities.[12] Instead of taking as his聽聽聽聽聽 goal the theological deconstruction of the miracle traditions, Smith asked to what degree聽聽聽聽聽 the miracle stories of the gospels might in fact be based upon actions of Jesus, much in聽聽聽聽聽 the same way scholars examine the sayings traditions.

It has been typical for critical scholars of the Bible to reject any historical聽聽聽聽聽 foundation for the “miracle-worker” stories about Jesus. Because such tales聽聽聽聽聽 would tend to rely on the supernatural, and scholars seek to understand the origins of the聽聽聽聽聽 Bible in realistic terms, it is more plausible for the modern critic to propose reasons聽聽聽聽聽 for which an early Christian community might have come to understand Jesus as a聽聽聽聽聽 miracle-worker and subsequently engage in the production of mythologies depicting him in聽聽聽聽聽 that mold. Smith’s understanding of the kingdom language in the Christian writings, with聽聽聽聽聽 its well-known ambivalent eschatological and yet emphatically present or聽聽聽聽聽 “realized” tendencies, evolved to the conclusion that:

[Jesus] could admit his followers to the kingdom of God, and he could do it in some聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 special way, so that they were not there merely by anticipation, nor by virtue of belief聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 and obedience, nor by some other figure of speech, but were really, actually, in.[13]

Smith held that the best explanation for the literary and historical evidence聽聽聽聽聽 surrounding the mircles of Jesus was that Jesus himself actually performed–or meant to聽聽聽聽聽 and was understood to have performed–magical feats. Among these was a baptismal聽聽聽聽聽 initiation rite through which he was able to “give” his disciples a vision of聽聽聽聽聽 the heavenly spheres. This was in the form of an altered state of consciousness induced by聽聽聽聽聽 “the recitation of repetitive, hypnotic prayers and hymns,” a technique common聽聽聽聽聽 in Jewish mystical texts, Qumran material, Greek magical papyri and later Christian聽聽聽聽聽 practices such as the Byzantine liturgy.[14] This is a radical departure from the聽聽聽聽聽 mainstream scholarship which seeks to minimize or eliminate altogether any possible聽聽聽聽聽 “supernatural” elements attached to the Historical Jesus, who is most often聽聽聽聽聽 understood as a speaker on social issues and applied ethics . . . an Elijahform social聽聽聽聽聽 worker, if you will.

Morton Smith did not begin with that assumption, nor did his reinterpretation of聽聽聽聽聽 Christian history arrive at it. Thus, the new theory summarized in his 1973 book for聽聽聽聽聽 general readership displeased practically everyone:

[. . . F]rom the scattered indications in the canonical Gospels and the secret Gospel of Mark, we can put together a picture of Jesus’ baptism, “the mystery of the kingdom of God.” It was a water baptism administered by Jesus to chosen disciples, singly and by night. The costume, for the disciple, was a linen cloth worn over the naked body. This cloth was probably removed for the baptism proper, the immersion in water, which was now reduced to a preparatory purification. After that, by unknown ceremonies, the disciple was possessed by Jesus’ spirit and so united with Jesus. One with him, he participated by hallucination in Jesus’ ascent into the heavens, he entered the kingdom of God, and was thereby set free from the laws ordained for and in the lower world. Freedom from the law may have resulted in completion of the spiritual union by physical union. This certainly occurred in many forms of gnostic Christianity; how early it began there is no telling.[15]

In an interview with The New York Times just before his books were released onto聽聽聽聽聽 the market, Smith noted with appreciation, “Thank God I have tenure.”[16]

The Inquisition: Let’s Begin

Not a moment was lost in the ensuing backlash. Smith had laid aside the canon of聽聽聽聽聽 unwritten rules that most Biblical scholars worked by. He took the Gospels as more firmly聽聽聽聽聽 rooted in history than in the imagination of the early church. He refused to operate with聽聽聽聽聽 an artificially thick barrier between pagan and Christian, magic and mythology. And he not聽聽聽聽聽 only promulgated his theories from his office in Columbia University via obscure scholarly聽聽聽聽聽 periodicals: he had given them to the world in plain, understandable and all-too-clear聽聽聽聽聽 language. Thus there was no time for the typical scholarly method of thorough, researched,聽聽聽聽聽 logical refutation. The public attention span was short. It was imperative that Smith be聽聽聽聽聽 discredited before too many Biblical scholars told the press that there might be something聽聽聽聽聽 to his theories. Some of the high-pitched remarks of well-known scholars are amusing to us聽聽聽聽聽 in retrospect:

Patrick Skehan: “…a morbid concatenation of fancies…”[17] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Joseph Fitzmyer: “…venal popularization…”[18] “…replete with聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 innuendos and eisegesis…”[19] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Paul J. Achtemeier: “Characteristically, his arguments are awash in聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 speculation.”[20] “…an a priori principle of selective credulity…”[21] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 William Beardslee: “…ill-founded…”[22] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Pierson Parker: “…the alleged parallels are far-fetched…”[23] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Hans Conzelmann: “…science fiction…”[24] “…does not belong to聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 scholarly, nor even…discussable, literature…”[25] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Raymond Brown: “…debunking attitude towards Christianity…”[26] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Frederick Danker: “…in the same niche with Allegro’s mushroom fantasies and聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Eisler’s salmagundi.”[27] 聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Helmut Merkel: “Once again total warfare has been declared on New Testament聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 scholarship.”[28]

The possibility that the initiation could have included elements of eroticism was聽聽聽聽聽 unthinkable to many scholars, whose reaction was to project onto Smith’s entire聽聽聽聽聽 interpretive work an imaginary emphasis on Jesus being a homosexual:

[. . . T]he fact that the young man comes to Jesus “wearing a linen cloth over his聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 naked body” naturally suggests implications which Smith does not fail to infer.[29]

Hostility has marked some of the initial reactions to Smith’s publication because of聽聽聽聽聽 his debunking attitude towards Christianity and his unpleasant suggestion that Jesus聽聽聽聽聽 engaged in homosexual practices with his disciples.[30]

Many others cited rather prominently the homoerotic overtures of Smith’s thesis in聽聽聽聽聽 their objections to his overall work.[31] Another criticism, which holds more weight from聽聽聽聽聽 a scholar’s standpoint, was Smith’s rejection of the form and redaction critical聽聽聽聽聽 techniques preferred by the reviewer.[32]

Two scholars, embarassingly, found a flaw in Smith’s use of what they considered too聽聽聽聽聽 much documentation, as a ploy to confuse the reader.[33]

Many scholars felt that the Secret Mark fragments were a pastiche from the four聽聽聽聽聽 gospels, some even suggesting that Mark’s style is so simple to imitate the fragment must聽聽聽聽聽 be a useless pseudepigraphon.[34]

In reaction to Clement’s claim to perform initiation rites, some scholars simply聽聽聽聽聽 dogmatized that Alexandrian Christians only used words like “initiation” and聽聽聽聽聽 “mystery” in a figurative sense, therefore the letter must not be authentic.[35]

Finally, some reactions truly border on the petty. Two scholars held that Morton Smith聽聽聽聽聽 didn’t really “discover” the Secret Gospel of Mark at all. Because the letter聽聽聽聽聽 only contains two fragments of it, Smith is described as dishonest in his subtitle聽聽聽聽聽 “The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel of Mark.”[36] Worst of聽聽聽聽聽 all is Danker, who complains that the Smith’s first, non-technical book does not include聽聽聽聽聽 the Greek text. “The designer of the jacket, as though fond of palimpsests, has聽聽聽聽聽 obscured with the book title and the editor’s name even the partial reproduction of聽聽聽聽聽 Clement’s letter,” and that while there is another photo inside the book, “the聽聽聽聽聽 publishers do not supply a magnifying glass with which to read it.”[37] All this just聽聽聽聽聽 to tell us that, after he and a companion had painstakingly transcribed the Greek text,聽聽聽聽聽 Smith’s transcription and translation are “substantially correct.”[38] He聽聽聽聽聽 deceptively omits that Smith’s Harvard edition includes large, easily legible photographic聽聽聽聽聽 plates of the original manuscript, alleging that Smith was “reluctant…to share the聽聽聽聽聽 Greek text”[39] he had discovered.

Only one reviewer, Fitzmeyer, saw it worthwhile to point out that Morton Smith was聽聽聽聽聽 bald. Whatever importance we may attach to the thickness of a scholar’s hair, it seems聽聽聽聽聽 that detached scholarly criticism fails when certain tenets of faith–even聽聽聽聽聽 “enlightened” liberal faith–are called into question.

Is the Ink Still Wet? The Question of a Forgery

Inevitably a document which is so controvertial as Secret Mark will be accused of being聽聽聽聽聽 a forgery. This is precisely what happened in 1975 when Quentin Quesnell published his聽聽聽聽聽 lengthy paper “The Mar Saba Clementine: A Question of Evidence” in the Catholic聽聽聽聽聽 Biblical Quarterly. In this article he brings to bear a host of objections to Smith’s聽聽聽聽聽 treatment of the document.

Foremost is the lack of the physical manuscript. Smith left the manuscript in the tower聽聽聽聽聽 at Mar Saba in 1958 and had been working with his set of photographs ever since. Quesnell聽聽聽聽聽 regards this as a neglect of Smith’s scholarly duties.[40] Perhaps those duties might be聽聽聽聽聽 assumed to include the theft of the volume a la Sinaiticus or the Jung Codex. In fact,聽聽聽聽聽 even Smith’s publication of photographic plates of the ms. are considered sub-standard by聽聽聽聽聽 Quesnell. They “do not include the margins and edges of the pages,” they聽聽聽聽聽 “are only black and white,” and are in Quesnell’s eyes marred by “numerous聽聽聽聽聽 discrepancies in shading, in wrinkles and dips in the paper.”[41]

Quesnell calls into question all of Smith’s efforts to date the manuscript to the聽聽聽聽聽 eighteenth century. Although Smith consulted many paleographic experts, Quesnell feels聽聽聽聽聽 this information to be useless as compared to a chemical analysis of the ink, and a聽聽聽聽聽 “microscopic examination of the writing.”[42]

Then he asks the “unavoidable next question”[43]: was the letter of Clement a聽聽聽聽聽 modern forgery? He remarks that Smith “tells a story on himself that could make clear聽聽聽聽聽 the kind of motivation that might stir a serious scholar even apart from any聽聽聽聽聽 long-concealed spirit of fun.”[44] Pointing out Smith’s interest in how scholars tend聽聽聽聽聽 to fit newly-discovered evidence into their previously-held sacrosanct interpretive聽聽聽聽聽 paradigms,[45] and how Smith requested scholars in his longer treatise to keep him abreast聽聽聽聽聽 of their research,[46] Quesnell asks if it might not be that a certain modern forger who聽聽聽聽聽 shall not be named might have “found himself moved to concoct some ‘evidence’ in聽聽聽聽聽 order to set up a controlled experiment?”[47]

Quesnell raises still more objections, and representative of them is his claim that the聽聽聽聽聽 mass of documentation Smith brought to bear in Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel聽聽聽聽聽 of Mark is really a ploy to distract the reader. “[. . . I]t is hard to believe that聽聽聽聽聽 this material is included as a serious contribution to scholarly investigation,”聽聽聽聽聽 Quesnell suggests.[48] In fact, he insinuates that its function is really to “deepen聽聽聽聽聽 the darkness.”[49]

Quesnell did not feel that scholarly discussion could “reasonably continue”聽聽聽聽聽 until all these issues–and more–were resolved.[50]

Smith’s answer to the accusation of forgery was published in the next volume of the聽聽聽聽聽 Catholic Biblical Quarterly. Humorously he advised his detractor that “one should not聽聽聽聽聽 suppose a text spurious simply because one dislikes what it says.”[51]

“Not at all,” was Quesnell’s reply. “I find it quite harmless.”[52]

Quesnell’s arguments were still echoed in 1983 by Per Beskow, who wrote that Smith聽聽聽聽聽 “can only present some mediocre photographs, which do not even cover the entire聽聽聽聽聽 margins of the manuscript.”[53] While the photographic plates in the Harvard volume聽聽聽聽聽 do not extend to the margins due to the cropping of the publishers,[54] Smith’s聽聽聽聽聽 photographs are printed elsewhere and do include the margins of the pages. Furthermore,聽聽聽聽聽 they are quite in-focus and cannot be described as mediocre.

The Popular Response

The religious right was particularly displeased with the new Secret Gospel of Mark.聽聽聽聽聽 Even without the magical interpretation of earliest Christianity Smith promulgated in his聽聽聽聽聽 two books, the discovery of another apocryphal gospel only spells trouble for conservative聽聽聽聽聽 theologians and apologists. What information about Secret Mark made it past the blockade聽聽聽聽聽 into the evangelical press? There was Ronald J. Sider’s quick review in Christianity聽聽聽聽聽 Today:

Unfounded . . . wildly speculative…pockmarked with irresponsible inferences . . .聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 highly speculative . . .operates with the presupposition that Jesus could not have been聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 the incarnate Son of God filled with the Holy Spirit . . . simply absurd! . . .聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 unacceptable . . . highly speculative . . . numerous other fundamental weaknesses . . .聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 highly speculative . . . irresponsible . . . will not fool the careful reader.[55]

Evangelical scholarship has since treated Secret Mark as it traditionally has any other聽聽聽聽聽 non-canonical text: as a peculiar but ultimately unimportant document which would be聽聽聽聽聽 spiritually dangerous to take seriously.

Secret Mark and Da Avabhasa’s Initiation to Ecstasy

Perhaps the strangest chapter in Secret Mark’s long history was its appropriation by聽聽聽聽聽 the Free Daist Communion, a California-based Eastern religious group led by American-born聽聽聽聽聽 guru Da Avabhasa (formerly known as Franklin Jones, Da Free John, and Da Kalki). In 1982,聽聽聽聽聽 The Dawn Horse Press, the voice of this interesting sect, re-published Smith’s Harper and聽聽聽聽聽 Row volume, with a new forword by Elaine Pagels and an added postscript by Smith himself.

In 1991 I made contact with this publisher in order to ascertain why they were聽聽聽聽聽 interested in Secret Mark. I was answered by Saniel Bonder, Da Avabhasa’s official聽聽聽聽聽 biographer and a main spokesman for the Commununion.

Heart-Master Da Avabhasa is Himself a great Spiritual “Transmitter” or聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 “Baptizer” of the highest type. And this is the key to understanding both His聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 interest in, and The Dawn Horse Press’s publication of, Smith’s Secret Gospel. What Smith聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 discovered, in the fragment of the letter by Clement of Alexandria, is–to Heart-Master聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Da–an apparent ancient confirmation that Jesus too was a Spirit-Baptizer who initiated聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 disciples into the authentic Spiritual and Yogic process, by night and in circumstances of聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 sacred privacy. This is the single reason why Heart-Master Da was so interested in the聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 story. As it happened, Morton Smith’s contract with a previous publisher had expired, and聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 so he was happy to arrange for us to publish the book.[56]

Because of the general compatibility of Smith’s interpretation of the historical Jesus聽聽聽聽聽 and the practices of the Da Free John community, the group’s leader was inclined to聽聽聽聽聽 promulgate Smith’s theory. It is difficult to judge the precise degree of ritual identity聽聽聽聽聽 which exists between Master Da and Jesus the magician. Some identity, however, is聽聽聽聽聽 explicit, as revealed in Bonder’s official biography of Master Da:

Over the course of Heart-Master Da’s Teaching years, His devotees explored all manner聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 of emotional-sexual possibilities, including celibacy, promiscuity, heterosexuality,聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 homosexuality, monogamy, polygamy, polyandy, and many different kinds of living聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 arrangements between intimate partners and among groups of devotees in our various聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 communities.[57]

The parallel between the Daist community during this time and the libertine Christian聽聽聽聽聽 rituals described by Smith is made stronger by the spiritual leader’s intimate involvement聽聽聽聽聽 with this thorough exploration of the group’s erogeny. “Heart-Master Da never聽聽聽聽聽 withheld Himself from participation in the play of our experiments with us . . .”[58]聽聽聽聽聽 Georg Feuerstein has published an interview with an anonymous devotee of Master Da who聽聽聽聽聽 describes a party during which the Master borrowed his wife in order to free him of聽聽聽聽聽 egotistical jealousy.[59] Like the Carpocratians of eighteen-hundred years ago, and the聽聽聽聽聽 Corinthian Christians of a century earlier still, the devotees of the Daist Communion聽聽聽聽聽 sought to come to terms with and conquer their sexual obstacles to ultimate liberation not聽聽聽聽聽 by merely denying the natural urges, but by immersing themselves in them.

For many years Da Avabhasa himself was surrounded by an “innermost circle” of聽聽聽聽聽 nine female devotees, which was dismantled in 1986 after the Community and the Master聽聽聽聽聽 himself had been through trying experiences.[60] In 1988 Da Avabhasa formally declared聽聽聽聽聽 four of these original nine longtime female devotees his “Kanyas,” the聽聽聽聽聽 significance of which is described well by Saniel Bonder:

Kanyadana is an ancient traditional practice in India, wherein a chaste young聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 woman…is given…to a Sat-Guru either in formal marriage, or as a consort, or simply as聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 a serving initimate. Each kanya thus becomes devoted…in a manner that in unique among聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 all His devotees. She serves the Sat-Guru Personally at all times and, in that unique聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 context, at all times is the recipient of His very Personal Instructions, Blessings, and聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Regard.[61]

As a kanyadana “kumari”, a young woman is necessarily “pure”–that聽聽聽聽聽 is, chaste and self-transcending in her practice, but also Spiritually Awakened by her聽聽聽聽聽 Guru, whether she is celibate or Yogically sexually active.[62]

The formation of the Da Avabhasa Gurukala Kanyadana Kumari Order should be seen against聽聽聽聽聽 the background of sexual experimentation and confrontation through which the Master’s聽聽聽聽聽 community had passed in the decade before, and in light of the sexuality-affirming stance聽聽聽聽聽 of the Daist Communion in general. The Secret Gospel presented a picture of Jesus as an聽聽聽聽聽 initiator into ecstasy and a libertine bearing more than a little resemblance to the聽聽聽聽聽 radical and challenging lessons of Master Da Avabhasa, in place long before 1982 when The聽聽聽聽聽 Dawn Horse Press re-issued the book.[63]

The Cultural Fringe and Secret Mark

Occasionally one still encounters brief references to Secret Mark in marginal or聽聽聽聽聽 sensational literature. A simple but accurate account of its discovery was related in the聽聽聽聽聽 1982 British best-seller The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Written by three television聽聽聽聽聽 documentary reporters, the book describes an actual French society called the Priory of聽聽聽聽聽 Sion which seeks to restore the French monarchy to a particular family which, it seems,聽聽聽聽聽 traces its blood-line back to Jesus himself. In the course of arguing that this could聽聽聽聽聽 actually be the truth, the authors find it convenient to cite Secret Mark as an example of聽聽聽聽聽 how the early church edited unwanted elements from its scriptures. “This missing聽聽聽聽聽 fragment had not been lost. On the contrary, it had apparently been deliberately聽聽聽聽聽 suppressed.”[64]

A quick reference to Secret Mark is made in Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s book on the聽聽聽聽聽 supposed “lost years” of Jesus. She writes that discoveries such as Secret Mark聽聽聽聽聽 “strongly suggest that early Christians possessed a larger, markedly more diverse聽聽聽聽聽 body of writings and traditions on the life of Jesus that appears in what has been handed聽聽聽聽聽 down to us in the New Testament.”[65] However, the remainder of the book speculates聽聽聽聽聽 about whether Jesus might have studied yoga in India, and has little to do with Secret聽聽聽聽聽 Mark or Jesus the magician.

Where Are We Now? (Scholarly Interest from 1982 to the present)

For scholars the problem remains unsettled. While even the most acid of reviews often聽聽聽聽聽 ended with a statement to wit that a real conclusion would require an in-depth treatment聽聽聽聽聽 of Smith’s books, none came. In 1982 Smith commented wryly on the rhetoric of the reviews聽聽聽聽聽 which made work on the Secret Mark problem almost impossible in the 1970s:

For example, Achtemeier’s review, of which the predendedly factual statements are often聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 grossly inaccurate. Though worthless as criticism, it cannot confidently be described as聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 “useless.” It probably pleased Fitzmyer, who was then editor of The Journal of聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Biblical Literature, and thus may have helped Achtemeier get the secretaryship of the聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 Society of Biblical Literature. That both names rhyme with “liar” is a curious聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 coincidence.[66]

Some important Catholic scholars, including Achtemeier, Fitzmyer, Quesnell, Skehan and聽聽聽聽聽 Brown, have tended to ignore Secret Mark or dismiss it as worthless. C.S. Mann’s Anchor聽聽聽聽聽 Bible commentary on Mark, published in 1986, represents the whole controversy as finished,聽聽聽聽聽 a matter of “mere curiosity.”[67] With the blessing of the Imprimatur behind聽聽聽聽聽 him, John P. Meier advised in 1991 that Secret Mark, the Gospels of Thomas and Peter, the聽聽聽聽聽 Egerton Gospel and all other non-canonical Jesus material were worthless and might simply聽聽聽聽聽 be thrown “back into the sea.”[68]

At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of scholars producing Secret聽聽聽聽聽 Mark studies since 1982. That “Morton Smith seems quite alone in his view that the聽聽聽聽聽 fragment is a piece of genuine Gospel material,” as claimed in 1983 by Beskow is聽聽聽聽聽 manifestly false.[69] Smith’s work in the early 70s was greeted with more-or-less positive聽聽聽聽聽 reviews by a small number of important scholars including Helmut Koester, Cyril聽聽聽聽聽 Richardson, George MacRae, and Hugh Trevor-Roper. Some scholars did not write reviews but聽聽聽聽聽 openly expressed the notion that Smith’s work was meritorious. When asked by the New York聽聽聽聽聽 Times about Smith’s interpretation of Jesus as a magician, Krister Stendhal tactfully聽聽聽聽聽 replied, “I have much sympathy for that way of placing Jesus in the social setting of聽聽聽聽聽 his time.”[70]

While that sympathy does not remain particularly widespread, accepting Smith’s magical聽聽聽聽聽 Jesus has nothing to do with taking Secret Mark seriously. The two issues may be discussed聽聽聽聽聽 seperately: the argument for magical practises in early Christianity may certainly be made聽聽聽聽聽 without reference to Secret Mark, and Secret Mark may be discussed as a text with no more聽聽聽聽聽 magical implications than we find in canonical Mark.

In Thomas Talley’s 1982 article on ancient liturgy, he describes his own attempt to聽聽聽聽聽 physically examine the Secret Mark manuscript. As his is the last word on the physical聽聽聽聽聽 artifact in question, it is fortuitous to quote him at length:

Given the late date of the manuscript itself and the fact that Prof. Smith published聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 photographs of it, it seemed rather beside the point that some scholars wished to dispute聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 the very existence of a manuscript which no one but the editor had seen. My own attempts聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 to see the manuscript in January of 19080 were frustrated, but as witnesses to its聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 existence I can cite the Archimandrite Meliton of the Jerusalem Greek Patriarchate who,聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 after the publication of Smith’s work, found the volume at Mar Saba and removed it to the聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 patriarchal library, and the patriarchal librarian, Father Kallistos, who told me that the聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 manuscript (two folios) has been removed from the printed volume and is being聽聽聽聽聽聽聽 repaired.[71]

Although one wishes this document were available for the examination of Western聽聽聽聽聽 scholars, it is no longer reasonable to doubt the existence of the manuscript itself. That聽聽聽聽聽 it represents an authentic tradition from Clement of Alexandria is disputed only by a聽聽聽聽聽 handful of scholars and, as Talley also points out, the letter has itself been included in聽聽聽聽聽 the standard edition of the Alexandrian father’s writings since 1980.[72]

Taking on the pressing question of Secret Mark’s textual relationship with the version聽聽聽聽聽 of Mark in our New Testament, Helmut Koester has published two intriguing studies arguing聽聽聽聽聽 that the development of Mark was an evolutionary process. First came the version of Mark聽聽聽聽聽 known by Matthew and Luke, the proto-Mark or Urkarkus long known to scholars of the聽聽聽聽聽 synoptic problem. After this original version of Mark was published, the expanded version聽聽聽聽聽 used by the Alexandrian church in Christian mysteries was made (and from that, its聽聽聽聽聽 gnosticized Carpocration version). Soon afterward or simulaneously, a mostly expurgated聽聽聽聽聽 version of Secret Mark was published widely and became canonical Mark.[73] The original聽聽聽聽聽 Urmarkus, lacking anything not found in Matthew or Luke, went the way of the sayings聽聽聽聽聽 source and was not preserved.

Koester’s view has made some inroads. Hans-Martin Schenke adopts it with the聽聽聽聽聽 modification that Carpocratian Mark predates the Secret Mark of the Alexandrian聽聽聽聽聽 Church.[74] John Dominic Crossan developed a theory like Koester’s in his 1985 Four Other聽聽聽聽聽 Gospels. Secret Mark has been included in the texts being translated as part of the聽聽聽聽聽 Scholars Version project, and is described as an early gospel fragment in material that聽聽聽聽聽 the Jesus Seminar has been making available to popular audiences. None of these treatments聽聽聽聽聽 is significantly affected by one’s assessment of the magical Jesus suggested by Smith.

Still, Jesus as magician is not a dead issue. John Dominic Crossan’s very intriguing聽聽聽聽聽 book on The Historical Jesus has an extended discussion of the topic. He argues that Jesus聽聽聽聽聽 may indeed be understood as a magician. He rejects an artificial dichotomy between magic聽聽聽聽聽 and religion, saying, “the prescriptive distinction that states that we practice聽聽聽聽聽 religion but they practice magic should be seen for what it is, a political validation of聽聽聽聽聽 the approved and the official against the unapproved and unofficial.”[75]

Conclusion: Where No Secret Gospel Has Gone Before

Secret Mark’s plight constitutes a warning to all scholars as to the dangers of聽聽聽聽聽 allowing sentiments of faith to cloud or prevent critical examination of evidence. When聽聽聽聽聽 seen in light of the massive literature which has been produced by the other major聽聽聽聽聽 manuscript finds of our century, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi codices, the聽聽聽聽聽 comparative dearth of good studies on this piece in particular cannot be explained in any聽聽聽聽聽 other way that a stubborn refusal to deal with information which might challenge聽聽聽聽聽 deeply-held personal convictions. It is good to keep in mind an unofficial directive of聽聽聽聽聽 the Jesus Seminar: “Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you.”[76]

“It is my opinion,” writes Hans Dieter Betz, “that Smith’s book and the聽聽聽聽聽 texts he discovered should be carefully and seriously studied. Criticizing Smith is not聽聽聽聽聽 enough.”[77] Certainly it is reasonable to concur. After twenty years of confusion,聽聽聽聽聽 it must be time to set aside emotionalism and approach both this fragment and Morton聽聽聽聽聽 Smith’s assessment of the role of magic in early Christianity with objective and critical聽聽聽聽聽 eyes. However that question is ultimately to be resolved, Secret Mark provides yet another聽聽聽聽聽 fascinating window into the remarkable ritual diversity we may identify in the first聽聽聽聽聽 phases of the development of Christianity.


1 Parker, “An Early Christian Cover-up?”, 5. 聽聽聽聽聽 2 Smith, “Monasteries and their Manuscripts.” 聽聽聽聽聽 3 Smith, The Secret Gospel, 12. 聽聽聽聽聽 4 Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel according to Mark, 1. 聽聽聽聽聽 5 Smith, The Secret Gospel, 13-14. 聽聽聽聽聽 6 ibid., 24. 聽聽聽聽聽 7 ibid., 25. 聽聽聽聽聽 8 Knox, “A New Gospel Ascribed to Mark.” 聽聽聽聽聽 9 Smith, “Monasteries and their Manuscripts.” 聽聽聽聽聽 10 Smith, “Hellenika Cheirographa en tei Monei tou Hagiou Sabba.” 聽聽聽聽聽 11 Smith, The Secret Gospel, 76. 聽聽聽聽聽 12 Smith, Jesus the Magician, 3-4. 聽聽聽聽聽 13 Smith, The Secret Gospel, 94. 聽聽聽聽聽 14 ibid., 113n1. 聽聽聽聽聽 15 ibid., 113-114. 聽聽聽聽聽 16 Shenker, “A Scholar Infers Jesus Practiced Magic.” 聽聽聽聽聽 17 Skehan, review of Smith’s work in Catholic Historical Review, 452. 聽聽聽聽聽 18 Fitzmyer, “How to Exploit a Secret Gospel,” 572. 聽聽聽聽聽 19 Fitzmyer, “Mark’s ‘Secret Gospel?'”, 65. 聽聽聽聽聽 20 Achtemeier, review of Smith in Journal of Biblical Literature, 626. 聽聽聽聽聽 21 ibid. 聽聽聽聽聽 22 Beardslee, review of Smith in Interpretation, 234. 聽聽聽聽聽 23 Parker, “An Early Christian Cover-Up?”, 5. 聽聽聽聽聽 24 Conzelmann, “Literaturbericht zu den Synoptischen Evangelien (Fortsetzung).”,聽聽聽聽聽 321. (Translation from Schenke, “The Mystery of the Gospel of Mark,” 70-71.) 聽聽聽聽聽 25 ibid., 23. (Translation from Schenke, “The Mystery of the Gospel of Mark,”聽聽聽聽聽 70-71.) 聽聽聽聽聽 26 Brown, “The Relation of ‘The Secret Gospel of Mark’ to the Fourth Gospel,”聽聽聽聽聽 466n1. 聽聽聽聽聽 27 Danker, review of Smith in Dialog, 316. 聽聽聽聽聽 28 Merkel, “Auf den Spuren des Urmarkus?”, 123. (Translation from Schenke,聽聽聽聽聽 “The Mystery of the Gospel of Mark,” 69.) 聽聽聽聽聽 29 Musurillo, “Morton Smith’s Secret Gospel,” 328. 聽聽聽聽聽 30 Brown, “The Relation of ‘The Secret Gospel of Mark’ to the Fourth Gospel,”聽聽聽聽聽 466n1. 聽聽聽聽聽 31 Including Fitzmeyer, “How to Exploit a Secret Gospel”; Parker, “An Early聽聽聽聽聽 Christian Cover-Up?”; Skehan, review of Smith in Catholic Historical Review 60(1974);聽聽聽聽聽 Gibbs, review of Smith in Theology Today 30(1974); Grant, “Morton Smith’s Two聽聽聽聽聽 Books”; Merkel, “Auf den Spuren des Urmarkus?”; Kummel, “Ein Jahrzehnt聽聽聽聽聽 Jesusforchung”; and Beskow, Strange Tales about Jesus. Anitra Kolenkow’s comments on聽聽聽聽聽 this bias are salient: “We know that the gospel of John long has been known as聽聽聽聽聽 possibly containing both gnostic and homosexual motifs. John may have been written at聽聽聽聽聽 approximately the same time as Mark. What difference does it make to us if Jesus is not聽聽聽聽聽 separated from a homosexual situation?” (Quoted from Kolenkow’s response to Reginald聽聽聽聽聽 Fuller, Longer Mark, 33.) 聽聽聽聽聽 32 Examples are Achtemeier, review of Smith in the Journal of Biblical Literature聽聽聽聽聽 93(1974); MacRae, “Yet Another Jesus”; Gibbs, review of Smith in Theology Today聽聽聽聽聽 30(1974); and Fuller, Longer Mark: Forgery, Interpolation, or Old Tradition? 聽聽聽聽聽 33 See the statements to this effect in Quesnell, “The Mar Saba Clementine,” and聽聽聽聽聽 Hobbs (response in Fuller, Longer Mark: Forgery, Interpolation, or Old Tradition?). 聽聽聽聽聽 34 Such scholars included Pierson Parker, Edward Hobbs and Per Beskow. 聽聽聽聽聽 35 See Bruce, The ‘Secret’ Gospel of Mark; Musurillo, “Morton Smith’s Secret聽聽聽聽聽 Gospel”; and Kummel, “Ein Jahrzehnt Jesusforschung.” 聽聽聽聽聽 36 Fitzmyer, “How to Exploit a Secret Gospel”; Gibbs, review of Smith in聽聽聽聽聽 Theology Today 30(1974). 聽聽聽聽聽 37 Danker, review of Smith in Dialog, 316. 聽聽聽聽聽 38 ibid. 聽聽聽聽聽 39 ibid. 聽聽聽聽聽 40 Quesnell, “The Mar Saba Clementine,” 49. 聽聽聽聽聽 41 ibid., 50. 聽聽聽聽聽 42 ibid., 52. 聽聽聽聽聽 43 ibid., 53. 聽聽聽聽聽 44 ibid., 57. 聽聽聽聽聽 45 Smith, The Secret Gospel, 25. 聽聽聽聽聽 46 Smith, Clement of Alexandria, ix. 聽聽聽聽聽 47 Quesnell, “The Mar Saba Clementine,” 58. 聽聽聽聽聽 48 ibid., 61. 聽聽聽聽聽 49 ibid., 60n30. 聽聽聽聽聽 50 ibid., 48. 聽聽聽聽聽 51 Smith, “On the Authenticity of the Mar Saba Letter of Clement,” 196. 聽聽聽聽聽 52 Quesnell, “A Reply to Morton Smith,” 201. 聽聽聽聽聽 53 Beskow, Strange Tales about Jesus, 101. 聽聽聽聽聽 54 Smith, “On the Authenticity of the Mar Saba Letter of Clement,” 196. 聽聽聽聽聽 55 Sider, “Unfounded ‘Secret’,” 160. 聽聽聽聽聽 56 Private correspondence with Saniel Bonder. 聽聽聽聽聽 57 Bonder, The Divine Emergence of the World-Teacher, 234. 聽聽聽聽聽 58 ibid., 235. 聽聽聽聽聽 59 Feuerstein, Holy Madness, 90-92. 聽聽聽聽聽 60 ibid., 94. 聽聽聽聽聽 61 Bonder, The Divine Emergence of the World-Teacher, 287. 聽聽聽聽聽 62 ibid., 288. 聽聽聽聽聽 63 It is neccessary to stipulate that nothing in the above discussion of the Free Daist聽聽聽聽聽 Communion should be read as derogatory. The purpose is simple description. Despite the聽聽聽聽聽 controversy which has sometimes surrounded this movement, the author does not feel that聽聽聽聽聽 its practices are in any way fraudulent or abusive. Scholars should consider the聽聽聽聽聽 possibility that examination of modern new religious movements such as the Da Avabhasa聽聽聽聽聽 sect might be extraordinarily helpful in our understanding of the community dynamics of聽聽聽聽聽 early libertine Christians such as the Carpocratians. 聽聽聽聽聽 64 Baigent et al, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, 290. 聽聽聽聽聽 65 Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus, 9. Most interestingly, in her notes Prophet quotes a聽聽聽聽聽 1984 telephone interview with scholar Birger A. Pearson, in which he says that “many聽聽聽聽聽 scholars, maybe even most, would now accept the authenticity of the Clement fragment,聽聽聽聽聽 including what it said about the Secret Gospel of Mark.” (434n16) 聽聽聽聽聽 66 Smith, The Secret Gospel (1982 Dawn Horse edition), 150n7. 聽聽聽聽聽 67 Mann, Mark (The Anchor Bible), 423. 聽聽聽聽聽 68 Meier, A Marginal Jew, 140. 聽聽聽聽聽 69 Beskow, Strange Tales about Jesus, 99. One wonders what a “genuine piece of gospel聽聽聽聽聽 material” might be. Are gospel additions such as the second ending of Mark (16.9-20)聽聽聽聽聽 and the famous story of the adulterous woman (John 8.53-9.11) “genuine gospel聽聽聽聽聽 material,” even if we know they were not originally part of the gospels in which they聽聽聽聽聽 are found? 聽聽聽聽聽 70 Shenker, “Jesus: New Ideas about his Powers.” 聽聽聽聽聽 71 Talley, “Liturgical Time in the Ancient Church,” 45. 聽聽聽聽聽 72 ibid. 聽聽聽聽聽 73 See Koester, “History and Development of Mark’s Gospel,” and Ancient聽聽聽聽聽 Christian Gospels. 聽聽聽聽聽 74 Schenke, “The Mystery of the Gospel of Mark,” 76. 聽聽聽聽聽 75 Crossan, The Historical Jesus, 310. 聽聽聽聽聽 76 Funk et al., The Five Gospels, 5. 聽聽聽聽聽 77 Fuller, Longer Mark: Forgery, Interpolation, or Old Tradition?, 18.


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Baigent, Michael, Richard Leigh. The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception. New York: Simon聽聽聽聽聽 & Shuster, 1991.

Bauckham, Richard. “Salome the Sister of Jesus, Salome the Disciple of Jesus, and聽聽聽聽聽 the Secret Gospel of Mark.” Novum Testamentum 33 (1991): 245-275.

Beardslee, William A. Review of Smith. Interpretation 28 (1974): 234-36.

Beskow, Per. Strange Tales about Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983.

Bonder, Saniel. The Divine Emergence of the World-Teacher. Clearlake, CA: Dawn聽聽聽聽聽 Horse Press, 1990. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Private correspondence, 1991.

Brown, Raymond E. “The Relation of ‘The Secret Gospel of Mark’ to the Fourth聽聽聽聽聽 Gospel.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 36 (1974): 466-85.

Bruce, F.F. The ‘Secret’ Gospel of Mark. London: Althone Press, 1974.

Bultmann, Rudolf. 1958. Jesus Christ and Mythology. New York: Scribner’s, 1958.

Burkert, Walter. 1987. Ancient Mystery Cults. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University聽聽聽聽聽 Press, 1987.

Conzelmann, Hans. “Literaturbericht zu den Synoptischen Evangelien聽聽聽聽聽 (Fortsetzung).” Theologische Rundschau 43 (1978): 23f.

Crossan, John Dominic. Four Other Gospels: Shadows on the Contours of Canon. San聽聽聽聽聽 Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. The Cross that Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. San聽聽聽聽聽 Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. HarperSanFrancisco,聽聽聽聽聽 1991.

Danker, Frederick W. Review of Smith. Dialog 13 (1974): 316.

Donfried, K. “New-Found Fragments of an Early Gospel.” Christian Century聽聽聽聽聽 90 (1973): 759-60.

Feurestien, Georg. Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of聽聽聽聽聽 Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, and Rascal Gurus. New York: Penguin Arkana, 1990.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “How to Exploit a Secret Gospel.” America 128聽聽聽聽聽 (1973): 570-572. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Reply to Morton Smith in “Mark’s ‘Secret Gospel?’.” America 129聽聽聽聽聽 (1973): 64-65.

Frend, W. “A New Jesus?” New York Review of Books 20 (1973): 34-35.

Fuller, R. Longer Mark: Forgery, Interpolation, or Old Tradition? (Center for聽聽聽聽聽 Hermeneutical Studies, colloquy 18), edited by W. Wuellner. Berkeley, CA: Center for聽聽聽聽聽 Hermeneutical Studies, 1975.

Funk, Robert W., Roy W. Hoover and The Jesus Seminar. The Five Gospels: The Search聽聽聽聽聽 for the Authentic Words of Jesus. New York: Macmillan, 1993.

Gibbons, J. Review of Smith. Sign 53 (September 1973): 48.

Gibbs, J.G. Review of Smith. Theology Today 30 (1974): 423-26.

Grant, Robert. “Morton Smith’s Two Books.” Anglican Theological Review聽聽聽聽聽 56 (1974): 58-65.

Greene, D.St.A. Review of Smith. The National Observer 12 (1973): 15.

Hanson, R.P.C. Review of Smith. Journal of Theological Studies 25 (1974):聽聽聽聽聽 513-21.

Hobbs, Edward C. Response to Reginald Fuller. In Longer Mark: Forgery,聽聽聽聽聽 Interpretation, or Old Tradition?, edited by W. Wuellner, 19-25. Berkeley, CA: Center聽聽聽聽聽 for Hermeneutical Studies, 1975.

Horst, P. van der. “Het ‘Geheime Markusevangelie.'” Nederlands Theologisch聽聽聽聽聽 Tijdschrift 33 (1979): 27-51.

Jaeger, Werner. Early Christianity and Greek Paideia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard聽聽聽聽聽 University Press, 1961.

Johnson, M.D. Review of Smith. The Lutheran Quarterly 25 (1973): 426-27.

Johnson, S. “The Mystery of St. Mark.” History Today 25 (1975): 89-97.

Kee, Howard Clark. Review of Smith. Journal of the American Academy of Religion聽聽聽聽聽 43 (1975): 326-29.

Knox, Sanka. “A New Gospel Ascribed to Mark.” The New York Times, 30聽聽聽聽聽 December 1960, p. 1, 17. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “Expert Disputes ‘Secret Gospel’.” The New York Times, 31聽聽聽聽聽 December 1960, p. 7.

Koester, Helmut. Review of Smith. American Historical Review 80 (1975): 620-622.聽聽聽聽聽聽 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “History and Development of Mark’s Gospel (From Mark to Secret Mark and聽聽聽聽聽 ‘Canonical’ Mark),” in Colloquy on New Testament Studies, ed. Bruce Corley.聽聽聽聽聽 Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1983. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Ancient Christian Gospels. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International,聽聽聽聽聽 1990.

Kolenkow, Anitra Bingham. Response to Reginald Fuller. In Longer Mark: Forgery,聽聽聽聽聽 Interpretation, or Old Tradition?, edited by W. Wuellner, 33-34. Berkeley, CA: Center聽聽聽聽聽 for Hermeneutical Studies, 1975.

K眉mmel, Werner Georg. “Ein Jahrzehnt Jesusforschung (1965-1975).” Theologische聽聽聽聽聽 Rundschau 40 (1975): 299-302.

Levin, Saul. “The Early History of Christianity, in Light of the ‘Secret Gospel’聽聽聽聽聽 of Mark.” Aufstieg und Niedergang der R枚mischem Welt 2.25.6 (1988):聽聽聽聽聽 4270-4292.

MacRae, George. “Yet Another Jesus.” Commonweal 99 (1974): 417-420.

Mack, Burton L. A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins. Philadelphia:聽聽聽聽聽 Fortess, 1988.

Mann, C.S. Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor聽聽聽聽聽 Bible Series. New York: Doubleday, 1986.

Meier, John P. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Volume One. New聽聽聽聽聽 York: Doubleday, 1991.

Merkel, Helmut. “Auf den Spuren des Urmarkus? Ein neuer Fund und seine聽聽聽聽聽 Beurteilung.” Zeitschrift fuer Theologie und Kirche 71 (1974): 123-144.

Metzger, Bruce M. 1972. “Literary Forgeries and Canonical Pseudepigrapha.” Journal聽聽聽聽聽 of Biblical Literature 91 (1972): 3-24.

Meyer, Marvin W., ed. The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook. San Francisco: Harper聽聽聽聽聽 & Row, 1987.

Mullins, Terence Y. “Papias and Clement and Mark’s Two Gospels.” Vigiliae聽聽聽聽聽 Christianae 30: 189-92.

Musurillo, H. “Morton Smith’s Secret Gospel.” Thought 48 (1974):聽聽聽聽聽 327-331.

Osborn, Eric. “Clement of Alexandria: A Review of Research, 1958-1982.” The聽聽聽聽聽 Second Century 3 (1983): 219-244.

Pagels, Elaine. Foreword to the 1982 reprint of The Secret Gospel. Clearlake,聽聽聽聽聽 CA: Dawn Horse Press, 1982.

Parker, Pierson. “An Early Christian Cover-Up?” New York Times Book聽聽聽聽聽 Review, 22 July 1973, p. 5.

____________. “On Professor Morton Smith’s Find at Mar Saba.” Anglican聽聽聽聽聽 Theological Review 56 (1974): 53-57.

Patterson, Stephen J. and Helmut Kuester. “The Secret Gospel of Mark,”聽聽聽聽聽 402-405 in Miller, Robert J., ed., The Complete Gospels: Scholars Version. Sonoma,聽聽聽聽聽 CA: Polebridge Press, 1992.

Petersen, N. Review of Smith. Southern Humanities Review 8 (1974): 525-531.

Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. The Lost Years of Jesus: Documentary Evidence of Jesus’聽聽聽聽聽 17-Year Journey to the East. Livingston, MT: Summit University Press, 1987.

Quesnell, Quentin. Review of Smith. National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 30, 1973. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “The Mar Saba Clementine: A Question of Evidence.” Catholic聽聽聽聽聽 Biblical Quarterly 37 (1975): 48-67. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “A Reply to Morton Smith.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38聽聽聽聽聽 (1976): 200-203.

Reese, J. Review of Smith. Catholic Biblical Quarterly 36 (1974): 434-435.

Richardson, Cyril C. Review of Smith. Theological Studies 35 (1974): 571-77.

Schenke, Hans-Martin. “The Mystery of the Gospel of Mark.” The Second聽聽聽聽聽 Century 4 (1984):65-82. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “The Function and Background of the Beloved Disciple in the Gospel of聽聽聽聽聽 John,” in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early Christianity, Charles W. Hedrick聽聽聽聽聽 and Robert Hodgson, Jr., eds. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986.

Schmidt, Daryl D. The Gospel of Mark. Scholars Version. Sonoma, CA: Polebridge聽聽聽聽聽 Press, 1990.

Scroggs, Robin. Review of Smith. Chicago Theological Seminary Register 1974: 58.

Scroggs, Robin, and Kent I. Groff. “Baptism in Mark: Dying and Rising with聽聽聽聽聽 Christ.” Journal of Biblical Literature 92 (1973): 531-548.

Shenker, Israel. “A Scholar Infers Jesus Practiced Magic.” The New York聽聽聽聽聽 Times, 23 May 1973, p. 39. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “Jesus: New Ideas about His Powers.” The New York Times, 3聽聽聽聽聽 June 1973, p. IV 12.

Sider, Ronald J. “Unfounded ‘Secret’.” Christianity Today 18 (9 Nov聽聽聽聽聽 1973): 160.

Skehan, Patrick W. Review of Smith 1973b. Catholic Historical Review 60 (1974):聽聽聽聽聽 451-53.

Smith, Morton. “Hellenika Cheirographa en tei Monei tou Hagiou Sabba.” Nea聽聽聽聽聽 Sion 52 (1960): 110-125, 245-256. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “Monasteries and their Manuscripts.” Archaeology 13 (1960):聽聽聽聽聽 172-177. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel聽聽聽聽聽 according to Mark. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark. Cambridge, MA:聽聽聽聽聽 Harvard University Press, 1973. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Reply to Joseph Fitzmeyer in “Mark’s ‘Secret Gospel?’.” America聽聽聽聽聽 129 (1973): 64-65. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “Merkel on the Longer Text of Mark.” Zeitschrift fuer Theologie聽聽聽聽聽 und Kirche 72 (1975): 133-150. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “On the Authenticity of the Mar Saba Letter of Clement.” Catholic聽聽聽聽聽 Biblical Quarterly 38 (1976): 196-199. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “A Rare Sense of prokopt么 and the Authenticity of the Letter of聽聽聽聽聽 Clement of Alexandria,” in God’s Christ and His People: Studies in Honor of Nils聽聽聽聽聽 Alstrup Dahl, ed. Jacob Jervell and Wayne A. Meeks. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1977. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Jesus the Magician. New York: Harper & Row, 1978. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “Clement of Alexandria and Secret Mark: The Score at the End of the聽聽聽聽聽 First Decade.” Harvard Theological Review 75 (1982): 449-461. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. Postscript to the 1982 reprint of The Secret Gospel. Clearlake, CA:聽聽聽聽聽 Dawn Horse Press, 1982. 聽聽聽聽聽 ____________. “Paul’s Arguments as Evidence of the Christianity from which he聽聽聽聽聽 Diverged.” Harvard Theological Review 79 (1986): 254-60.

Stagg, F. Review of Smith. Review and Expositor 71 (1974): 108-110.

Talley, Thomas. “Liturgical Time in the Ancient Church: The State of聽聽聽聽聽 Research.” Studia Liturgica 14 (1982): 34-51.

Trevor-Roper, Hugh. “Gospel of Liberty.” London Sunday Times (30 June聽聽聽聽聽 1974), 15.

Trocm茅, 脡tienne. “Trois critques au miroir de l’脡vangile selon Marc.” Revue聽聽聽聽聽 d’histoire et philosophie religieuses 55 (1974): 289-295.

Wilson, Ian. Jesus: The Evidence. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984.

Wink, Walter. “Jesus as Magician.” Union Seminary Quarterly Review 30聽聽聽聽聽 (1974): 3-14.

Yamauchi, Edwin M. “A Secret Gospel of Jesus as ‘Magus?’ A Review of Recent Works聽聽聽聽聽 of Morton Smith.” Christian Scholars Review 4 (1975): 238-251.

Author’s note:
The author would like to offer thanks to Saniel Bonder of the Mountain of Attention聽聽聽聽聽 Sanctuary for his kind assistance in providing research materials and his willingness to聽聽聽聽聽 share with me information pertaining to The Dawn Horse Press and The Secret Gospel.聽聽聽聽聽 Further thanks are due to Dr. Jon Daniels of The Defiance College for his helpful insights聽聽聽聽聽 into the subject matter of this study.

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July 5, 2013 · 09:12


Do you remember the story of the 聽woman who came up to Jesus in a crowd and touched him?*

Now because of her medical condition, this woman should not even been aloowed out in public 鈥 according to the law of her day

And it was certainly against the law of her time for her to touch anyone. That did not matter to Jesus, and, obviously, that did not matter to the woman. Jesus used the same words with the woman as he used with other healed persons: 鈥淵our faith has made you well鈥

There is however the interesting reversal of the direction of the action in this healing story. Many times Jesus touched others. Here, another person touches Jesus. The initiation of the healing process is backwards, but it works anyway. Her faith made her well. Her faith saved her. She, like all the others who were healed, went in peace and she was healed. As the old King James Bible put it, she was 鈥渕ade whole.鈥

How strange it is that Jesus鈥 healing touch and healing presence worked as well in reverse as in drive!

Touch is so important in healing, and yet how sensitive many people are to touch. Back in the 60鈥檚 and early 70鈥檚 there was a great deal of touching and hugging going on. Close community ties and a strong sense of togetherness marked the peace movement. 鈥淢ake love, not war,鈥 was a favourite chant of the times. Those were touchy-feely times in more ways than one.

The past two decades have nearly seen an end to touching. If a secretary is touched by her boss, she might file a sexual harassment charge against him. Teachers are told again and again not to touch the youngsters in their charge. There are good reasons for this, but when it comes to the point that a primary school teacher cannot hug one of her pupils when he or she has fallen in the playground and is crying in distress and pain, something is wrong.

It can be difficult sometimes 鈥 especially when so many of our actions can be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

When I was a Hospital Chaplain, I once came across an elderly female patient 聽in one of the four-bedded Infirmary wards.聽 This lady had something wrong with her leg 鈥 that鈥檚 why she was in hospital.聽 After chatting to her for a few minutes, she asked me to pray for her.聽 I put my hand on her shoulder, and said a brief prayer.聽 At the end of it, she thanked me for my words鈥 but said 鈥業t would have been better though if you鈥檇 put your hand on my leg鈥

No way!


Because hugs and touchings of any kind, seem so out of place today in our litigious society.聽 Yet, if the touching stops, we must ask ourselves if the healing will also stop – if the wholeness will also stop – if the faith will also stop, and if we will no longer be able to find a way to go forth into this world in peace.

Healing, restoration, wholeness, both physical and spiritual, all are contained in the meaning of the words that Jesus spoke that day, but probably none of the above would have marked that day if someone had not reached out and touched someone else.

* 聽Mark 5:25-34

Contemporary English Version (CEV)

25聽In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.聽26聽She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better, she only got worse.

27聽The woman had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him in the crowd and barely touched his clothes.聽28聽She had said to herself, 鈥淚f I can just touch his clothes, I will get well.鈥澛29聽As soon as she touched them, her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.

30聽At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, 鈥淲ho touched my clothes?鈥

31聽His disciples said to him, 鈥淟ook at all these people crowding around you! How can you ask who touched you?鈥澛32聽But Jesus turned to see who had touched him.

33聽The woman knew what had happened to her. She came shaking with fear and knelt down in front of Jesus. Then she told him the whole story.

34聽Jesus said to the woman, 鈥淵ou are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.鈥





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