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'The Secret Gospel of Mark' Unveiled
08-04-2020, 05:14 AM (This post was last modified: 08-04-2020 05:21 AM by Rako.)
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Lightbulb 'The Secret Gospel of Mark' Unveiled
This is an entertaining and interesting topic for those interested in early Christian research and academics. Peter Jefferey wrote The Secret Gospel of Mark' Unveiled to lay out the best explanation for Morton Smith's apparent forging of the "Secret Gospel of Mark" in the mid-20th Century. I have a pdf of Jeffery's book, and you can find passages and reviews of it for free online, as well as probably a free Ebook. This link should work for you:

[Image: secgosp.jpg]

Apparently what happened was that Dr. Morton Smith, a scholar on early Christian literature, forged a Letter seemingly by the late 2nd century Church Father Clement of Alexandria (not to be confused with the famous 1st century Pope Clement of Rome). In this forged letter, Clement complains that the Gnostics have a secret gospel of Mark that has false stories, like lustful rituals, and that they misportrayed the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Next in this forged letter, Clement gives the "real" story of Jesus staying with Lazarus, which is supposedly in the "secret", real version of Mark.

Unfortunately, some Christian scholars believed that Smith's forged "Letter of Clenent" was real, and hence they believed that there was a real "Secret Gospel of Mark" that had what Smith's forged letter claimed.

There were several sources and motivations that Smith had for his letter forgery. One was that before making the forgery, he had been in a friendly sparring debate with a Jewish colleague who had published information on rather secretive Jewish esoteric rituals. Morton argued back that the early Christian's would have had the same thing, but his colleague disagreed. It just *happened* that Smith later published his supposedly accidental "find" of the Letter, the coincidence with his earlier debate being one of many pieces of evidence that he was the forger.

Another source for the forgery is James Hunter's 1940 book The Mystery of Mar Saba, about which the Wikipedia page on Hunter says:
Quote:The story revolves around finding a long-lost document in the Mar Saba Monastery that is potentially embarrassing to Christianity. The document is later exposed as the work of a hoaxer.
*Coincidentally* Smith claimed that in the years after this 1940 book was published, that he found the Letter in the Mar Saba monastery.

A third source for the letter is an earlier, 20th century English novel that describes archeologists finding the very old grave of an English bishop named Theodore and someone putting a phallus object in the grave in order to fool the archeologists and make controversy. It *happens* that the letter supposedly from Clement is addressed to one "Theodore", and that scholars have been mystified who this Theodore in the supposed letter would have been. Apparently, the answer is that the forger was making a reference to Theodore, the fictional bishop in the novel.

A fourth source of the forgery was Morton Smith's own knowledge of Clement's real Greek writings and NT Greek. He had a compendium of Clement's Greek phrases that he annotated himself. So in making his forgery, he relied on Clement's known Greek, so that today when scholars check the forged letter, they see it as matching Clement's Greek and take this as evidence of authenticity.

From my memory of the critical research, another source for the forgery is the gay English writer Oscar Wilde's theme of the seven veils, which Wilde used to refer to a love dance. This theme of a dance with seven veils shows up in literature from Wilde's period, and the forged letter refers to a ritual and seven veils, but neither a dance nor that kind of ritual of seven veils is known from the early Christian period.

Jeffery's book alludes to the seven veils theme in his book title, as he sees the sexual seven veils theme as a key element in the forgery. The intent of Smith's forgery was to imply that secret gay sex rites were originally part of Christianity. It's true that neither the forged letter nor the quote from the supposed "Secret Mark" openly say that gay sex rites were used. But this is the implication in the forgery's text, like when it talks about Lazarus being a young man who disrobed and Jesus spending days teaching secrets of heaven to him, especially in the letter's context of Clement complaining about the Gnostics having lustful acts in the letter. The only other story in the Secret Mark passage in the forged letter is aimed at suggesting that Jesus had an aversion to women. This is because Jesus tries to avoid the women in the story with no legitimate reason given, IIRC.

A sixth source of the forgery is the forgery of St Ignatius' letters. Clement and Ignatius are two of the main 2nd century Church writers. There are two quite old versions of Ignatius' letters, one being a shorter version considered original and a second, longer version considered to have been forged by Arians before about 500 AD. Smith "discovered" his forgery of Clement's letter in (IIRC a 17th century) printed book published by Isaac Vossius of St. Ignatius' writing that Smith claimed that he found in the Mar Saba monastery in Palestine. Vossius' book IIRC had a warning against the Arian forgery of Ignatius' letters, and someone (probably Smith or an acquaintance) forged Clement's false letter into the back of Vossius' book.

The forger used an old handwriting style and probably the same style of ink as they had in the 17th century, so that analysis of the handwriting doesn't show it to be a forgery. To clarify, no one alleged to find an ancient manuscript by Clement. What Morton Smith claimed is that he found Vossius' 17th century book that has a handwritten copy of what is presented as a letter by Clement about the secret version of Mark's gospel.
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