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20550Morton Smith's Mark: score so far

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  • goranson@duke.edu
    Feb 4, 2006
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      "Score" is an odd word to put in an academic title. Stephen C. Carlson's, _The
      Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of _Secret Mark__ (2005), building on and
      adding to the work of Criddle, Ehrman, Murgia, Osborn, Quesnell, and others, has
      demonstrated that Morton Smith had the knowledge and the opportunity to pen the
      document claimed to be an 18th-century copy of a letter by Clement of
      Alexandria that quoted "Secret Mark" verses. And I currently think that Smith
      probably did that; I find that more plausible than any other proposed
      explanation so far, even if some questions remain. But, of couse, not all
      agree, and I also think that further research is called for, to confirm or deny

      The Mar Saba ms 65, taken to Jerusalem in 1976, the one in question, has
      apparently been unavailable for some years. But there may be other ways to test
      this matter.

      Smith described Mar Saba ms 22 as having on folio 1 recto "notes by previous
      owners or users," including "M. Madiotes (handwriting of the 20th cen.)."
      Carlson notes that that name (in Greek) is not found in Greek phonebooks. If
      anyone produces evidence of such a person who visited Mar Saba, that would
      count against Carlson's claim. Carlson claimed that Smith wrote that note. But
      published photos of ms 22 are cropped, to show the facing mss reused in the

      A look at that page, or a photo of it, could offer further text for
      paleographical comparison. Also, if Carlson is right that Smith left a clue in
      the name "Madiotes" it might be the case that that text would contain another

      Smith wrote that he photographed the first surviving page of the Voss book and
      the last page, to determine which edition, given that the title page was
      missing, presumably along with the front cover, and the front blank sheets that
      could have been used as practice sheets. But the published photos show the book
      in good condition. A look at the first surviving sheet photo might test the
      question of that book's condition, and how the front matter went missing. Smith
      wrote that books (generally) live hard lives at the monastery, but didn't note
      (specifically) whether, e.g., this anomolous book contained annotations to its
      text (as one might expect in book that lived a hard life) or other provenance
      indications (e.g., was it at Mar Saba in the 18th century?). And what about
      noting that the tantalizing breaking off of the text elicited no exasperated
      colophon from the scribe?

      It may be worth noting that Smith's more learned book was published by Harvard
      U.P., ten years after Smith, supported by Wolfson and Goodenough, was denied a
      Harvard job by President N. Pusey. And he wrote his "Score" in HTR. "Score"
      suggests a sporting metaphor, a game, Smith versus critics. One among its other
      meanings appears in the phrase "settling a score."

      But of course he photographed ms 65 in 1958, before his Harvard disappointment.
      and the dedication of A.D. Nock, who was unpersuaded it was genuine Clement,
      shows he was not against all Harvard people. (Did he sign a contract with
      Harvard UP for the 1973 book before or after the Harvard veto?) The mss seems
      to suggest (to Smith) an antinomian Jesus. Scholem (as quoted by Stroumsa in
      JECS) didn't go so as far as Smith. Smith, in that correspondence, 1976 (p151):
      "...I think I've learned more about Jesus from you [Scholem] and Shabbatai Zvi
      (I'm sometimes not sure which is which) than I have from any other source
      except the gospels and the magical papyri...." Is it possible that Smith
      retrojected the antinomianism of Sabbatai Zvi to Jesus? Shaye Cohen, Smith's
      literary executor, destroyed his correspondence without reading it, according
      to Smith's wishes. Yet the Smith-Scholem correspondence survives in Jerusalem.
      It may be of interest to see (when Stroumsa publishes) if the Scholem to Smith
      letters are represented there by carbon copies kept by Scholem or whether Smith
      untypically sent his originals to the Scholem archives. In other words, what was
      the selection process for what to preserve and what destroy?

      Smith not only generously--he was, in some respects, quite generous--left his
      books to JTSA, but some non-correspondence papers as well. That may be
      important, if efforts to see the ms 65 and ms 22 and Voss book in Jerusalem
      and/or Mar Saba fail. These papers at JTSA have not yet been catalogued. I have
      made an interlibrary loan request (and a recommendation for cataloging). Perhaps
      it will require an appointment and visit by someone. These papers include
      Smith's text (annotated) for the SBL announcement in 1960 (the same year the
      Mar Saba ms catalog was in print in Nea Sion). These should include "Manuscript
      Materials from the Monastery of Mar Saba, discovered, transcribed and translated
      by Morton Smith" New York: Privately Published. pp i +10. Perhaps more
      importantly--I await news--perhaps the archives includes photos. Smith
      preserved other monastery ms photos elsewhere. Smith wrote he photographed ms
      65 three times. At least some photo (in slide form) of ms 65 was reportedly (S.
      Cohen, personal communication 2006) among the papers. Additional Mar Saba
      photos, if they are there, could help with paleographical questions (e.g. thin
      and thick pen nibs--related to paper sizing breakdown?). And, if there is a
      photo of ms 22 full (non-cropped) folio 1 recto, then we could check, not only
      what Smith reported as the 20th century hand of M. Madiotes, but we could read
      what is wrotten there. If Carlson's reconstruction of the ms 65 as a hoax is
      generally correct, then one might expect the statement in ms 22 to contain
      another clue.

      Stephen Goranson
      "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene"
      (slightly revised, Jan. 2006)
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