Roger Pearse, writer/administrator of his eponymous blog, has written a lengthy review of Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate. These are the papers presented at the 2011 York Christian Apocrypha Symposium. Read the review HERE. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the book, Roger. I will offer a response to the review, but I'd be interested in reading other responses first.
Archive for the ‘Secret Mark’ Category
Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate is now available on Amazon in the US and Canada. Canadians should be cautioned that ordering the book directly from the publisher (Cascade) will incur high postage charges. Amazon or other Canadian distributors are recommended.
Timo Paananen, administrator of the Salainen evankelista blog, has provided an overview of research on Secret Mark for the journal Currents in Biblical Research (see HERE for an abstract of the article). It is an excellent overview of recent research on the text (with a little on early currents also). What Paananen does best here is bring attention to the deplorable way that scholars of Secret Mark have engaged with one another over the text. However, he seems unable to resist poking a little fun at proponents of the forgery hypotheses by associating them with fringe scholarship. He says,
Scholars are, to my mind, all too willing to accept the notion that Clement’s Letter to Theodore is full of obscure ‘hidden clues’, illuminating the path to the solution of an ingenious textual puzzle. The old philosophical adage, ‘no difference without distinction’, is not firmly held here. It is perfectly understandable if biblical scholars are largely unaware of the
Shadow Academia, a category under which all sorts of pseudoscientific, pseudohistorical and fringe scholarship in the (paranoid) style of conspiracy theorizing is produced. Proponents of the hoax hypothesis should aim to argue why the particular clues Carlson and Watson have unearthedshould be taken any more seriously than similar clues by fringe scholars,
disclosing true identities of this and that author. Specifically, this would mean differentiating the hoax hypothesis from Barbara Thiering’s Jesus the Man (1992), Joseph Atwill’s satirical reading of the Gospels, Lena Einhorn’s theories that Jesus was also Paul, the various textual cluespointing to someone else as the true author of Shakespeare’s works, and even the claims that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by alook-alike, a notion that derives from various ‘hidden clues’ in Beatles’ album covers and song lyrics.
I happen to agree with Paananen on this point. Panaanen also does an excellent job of presenting Scott Brown's and Allan Pantuck's responses to Peter Jeffery's and Stephen Carlson's monographs. He notes that Brown's and Pantuck's critiques have not been given the attention that they deserve. And it is because of this oversight that survey articles like Paananen's (and like my own in the Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery collection) are still required. Scholars rushed to declare Carlson had proven Secret Mark was a forgery, and now I think they are reluctant to accept arguments to the contrary.
Paananen blogged on the article back in October and the post includes links to some responses. Keep in mind, that the article was written almost two years ago and does not include subsequent discussions on the, including the York Symposium.
For another recent survey of Secret Mark scholarship, see Robert Connor's online essay HERE.
My copies of Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate arrived in the mail yesterday. These are the papers presented at the first York Christian Apocrypha Symposium in 2011. The book can be ordered from Wipf & Stock customer service now, from Wipf & Stock online in 2 weeks, and Amazon in 6-8 weeks. The price is $42. The catalog entry can be found HERE.
The book has received some glowing endorsements. John Kloppenborg says of it, "Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? brings together most of the key supporters and detractors of the authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark in a balanced, probing, and illuminating book…Although this book, carefully crafted by Burke, cannot be said to have brought closure on the issue, it has laid to rest many of the specious and illogical claims that have littered the discussion until now. We can only hope that the ground has now been cleared for a more balanced and scientific discussion of the Mar Saba manuscript." And Bart Ehrman says, "The debate over the Secret Gospel of Mark rages on. Did Morton Smith discover this text, or did he forge it? This terrific collection of essays presents leading voices from both sides of the controversy, stating their views, marshaling the evidence, and allowing readers to pass their own verdicts."
This is a good opportunity, too, to remind everyone of the second York Christian Apocrypha Symposium that will take place (if funding comes through) May 8-10, 2013. A more formal announcement will come as soon as everything is set in place.
Michael Kok, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Sheffield, has begun a series of posts on the Secret Gospel of Mark on his blog, Euangelion Kata Markon. So far, he has posted an introduction and the clip of Morton Smith discussing the text on the documentary Jesus the Evidence.
Christopher Rollston of the Emmanuel Christian Seminary has a post on the ASOR blog on the subject of forgeries ("Forging History:Motives, Methods, and Exemplars of Forged Texts"). The post discusses inscriptions and texts. What is conspicuously absent is Secret Mark. Perhaps Rollston does not consider this text a forgery. He does discuss, however, Paul R. Coleman-Norton's "Amusing Agraphon" which Craig Evans brought into the debate on Secret Mark at the York Symposium.
The proceedings for the York Symposium on the Secret Gospel of Mark have now been submitted to the press. The book is titled Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate and will be published by Cascade Books. Now we need to plan next year's event. Stay tuned. Here is the table of contents for the collection:
1. “Introduction,” by Tony Burke
2. “Secret Mark: Moving on from Stalemate,” by Charles W. Hedrick
3. “Provenience: A Reply to Charles Hedrick,” by Bruce Chilton
4. “Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt,” by Craig A. Evans
5. “Craig Evans and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt,” by Scott G. Brown and Allan J. Pantuck
6. “Was Morton Smith the Bernie Madoff of the Academy?” by Hershel Shanks
7. “The Young Streaker in Secret and Canonical Mark,” by Marvin Meyer
8. “Halfway Between Sabbatai Tzevi and Aleister Crowley: Morton Smith’s “Own Concept of What Jesus ‘Must’ Have Been” and, Once Again, the Questions of Evidence and Motive,” by Pierluigi Piovanelli
9. “A Question of Ability: What Did He Know and When Did He Know It? Further Excavations from the Morton Smith Archives,” by Allan J. Pantuck
10. “Clement’s Mysteries and Morton Smith’s Magic,” by Peter Jeffery
11. “Behind the Seven Veils, I: The Gnostic Life Setting of the Mystic Gospel of Mark,” by Scott G. Brown
12. “The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate: A Scholarly Q and A”
1: “Can the Academy Protect Itself from One of Its Own? The Case of Secret Mark,” by Stephen C. Carlson
2: The Letter to Theodore
I have been reading Robert M. Price’s Secret Scrolls: Revelations from the Lost Gospel Novels (Eugene, Or.: Wipf & Stock, 2011). Occasionally Price contextualizes some of the books he examines with discussions of theories and results of biblical scholarship. Sometimes, however, this contextualizing is drawn from what most of us would consider “fringe” scholarship—for example, dating the composition of the canonical gospels to the mid-second-century, Barabara Theiring’s ideosyncratic views on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the New Testament as “put together and heavily rewritten by Polycarp” (p. 169, appealing to David Trobish, The First Edition of the New Testament [New York: Oxford University Press, 2000]).
Another of Price’s contextual nuggets is the claim that the Gospel of Judas is a forgery (p. 76-77, 181). Price appeals here to an article by Richard J. Arthur, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Unification Theological Seminary (“The Gospel of Judas: Is It a Hoax?” Journal of Unification Studies 9  35-47, available online HERE). Price summarizes the article in three points: the text betrays an awareness of modern moral issues (“it seems to be editorializing on the priestly scandals of our time, as it depicts priests sleeping with women and ‘sacrificing’ children, this last perhaps pointing to abortion or molestation”), part of the gospel copies from The Secret Book of John (“the impression one gets from reading it is a patch transferred out of context, no longer making the sense it did in the original”), and it contains a scribal error found also in one of the extant copies of John from Nag Hammadi (Price asks, “what are the chances that the scribe of Judas copied from another [i.e., non Nag-Hammadi] copy of The Secret Book of John that made the very same goof in the very same spot?”).
Price accedes that the papyrus on which Judas is written is genuinely ancient (and, I might add, it was carbon-dated by the National Geographic Society to between 220 and 340 C.E.) but the text is not (but, again, the ink appears to be an ancient recipe). He goes on to declare that the forger is one of the members of the NGS team, but does not say which one (the team includes: Rodolphe Kasser, Gregor Wurst, François Gaudard, Marvin Meyer, and Florence Darbre). Arthur does not make this charge in the original paper, but he does say, “that our hoaxer is a member of the community of modern Coptic scholars who have special regard for Codex II as the first exemplar of the Apocryphon of John from Nag Hammadi to be published. He concludes the paper on a conciliatory note, despite the severity of the accusation: "The Gospel of Judas is probably a hoax, and all the writings in it of recent authorship. These writings were prepared in our time, on some old papyrus leaves, probably from a palimpsest, without a binding. There is no cause for rebuke. One of our colleagues has created great excitement; he is a jolly fellow and has done us all a favor.”
I’m not able to interact with Arthur’s theory on a linguistic level, but I do find his literary and text-critical arguments unconvincing (that the second-century church suffered from similar problems in leadership and its critics hurled at it typical insults does not surprise me, and it is not improbable for a similar error to occur in texts drawing upon common material). I can only assume other scholars have not been convinced by Arthur’s arguments given that I have not come across any other reference to his article. Those interested in the debate over the origins of Secret Mark may find the issue of interest since, once again, we get cavalier accusations of forgery against an eminent scholar in the field.
The papers presented at last Spring's Symposium on Secret Mark—Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate—have been accepted for publication by Cascade Books. I am currently editing the papers and hope to have the manuscript to the publisher in February.
There are plans also for another York Christian Apocrypha Symposium, but not until 2013. It was unlikely that we would receive funding without some "outcome" from the first symposium, and there was some delay in securing a contract in time for funding proposal season. We do not know yet what the topic will be for 2013, but I will post information when it becomes available.