Morton Smith's Mark Secret
- Morton Smith wrote in "Monasteries and their Manuscripts" (Archaeology 1960
p.173): "...persons hunting for manuscript material should not neglect printed
books. Not only end papers and blank pages, but even margins often contain
considerable manuscript additions."
Smith wote marginal notes in his own books. "He wrote approximately seventy-five
addenda and twenty-five corrigenda in his personal copy of CA [Clement of
Alexandria]" (p. 376 in Scott Brown, "The Question of Motive in the Case
against Morton Smith," JBL 2006).
In Secret Mark (1973 p.11) Smith wrote: "Many of the [Mar Saba] printed books
contained extensive handwritten passages. Binders' pages at front and back,
blank pages between chapters, even margins had been pressed into use.
So one might expect Smith should have described whether the Voss book had
notations between chapters or in the margins. But he did not. Instead he spent
time on a less important matter: photography to determine which edition of Voss
The Voss book, photographs show, was in very good condition, yet lacked its
front cover and title page. The title page, plus any marginal notations, could
have helped with provenance information. Nor did Smith, if he lacked time, ask
the monks to check the margins later, nor did he go back to see it himself--
despite subsequently being in Israel. Why was he not curious to see if the
endpaper scribe (or another) had written elsewhere in the book? Perhaps because
Smith was that scribe. Perhaps Smith did not want further provenance information
published. Perhaps Smith used the front binding papers for practice, before
bringing the book to Mar Saba (called "Mount Saba" in a new JTS review of
Carlson's Gospel Hoax).
Can the Voss book be found and examined in Jerusalem? If the Madiotes
handwriting sample (in a cropped photo) is small, can the whole ms be found?
Who is Theodore and why would Clement, uncharacteristically, be sharing, in
writing, secrets with him?
Brown in JBL discussed "The Gay Gospel Hypothesis," "The Hoax Hypothesis," and
"The Controlled Experiment Hypothesis." But these aren't the only options; and
two or three may overlap in some proposals. ("Controlled" experiment, also, can
apply to controlled set-up, not necessarily controlled outcome.) Brown
apparently gets mixed up about the possible options, e.g., on page 374. In the
Hoax Hypothesis, Brown says, two implications are that "the hoaxer does not
take his own hoax seriously" and that Smith "thought little of the people he
duped." Then he attempts to deny these. But the implications are poorly framed.
What if Smith had a two part motive: first to have his text (a serious joke)
accepted as genuine, and secondly, to have it eventually shown false, with a
hoped-for analogy made, that if his gospel was accepted as genuine and was not
so, other gospels might be regarded similarly? Smith had anti-religion motives
surely. And Smith regarded different people differently. Plainly two he most
admired were A.D. Nock, who did not accept the text as fully genuine what it
claimed to be; yet Smith dedicated a book (or two--"one who knows"?) to Nock.
Smith appreciated Nock's non-acceptance.
Then there's Gershom Scholem. Smith showed him the ms soon after he left Mar
Saba. He's the first person mentioned. Smith evidently did not tell his Greek
Orthodox hosts he had found a "Secret Mark". The 1960 Mar Saba ms catalog notes
the Clement letter but no gospel text is mentioned there, despite Smith's
previously having "walked on air" when he knew what he had. Only after the
catalog was in print did Smith reveal his ms to the 1960 SBL meeting (6 pages
of notes for that are in his archive).
Scholem did not fully accept Smith's interpretation of Jesus in his ms. Morton
Smith wrote to Scholem in 1976 (originals of the correspondence are preserved
in Jerusalem, despite the destruction of Smith's other letters; the JTSA Smith
archive is being catalogued this year). Smith to Scholem (JECS 2003 p.151 G.
Stroumsa ed.) "...I think I've learned more about Jesus from you 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...."
Smith learned about the antinomian Shabbatai Zvi from Scholem many years before
1958. Smith himself wrote that he mixed up Jesus and Shabbatai Zvi. Smith,
plausibly, projected Shabbatai Zvi's antinomianism onto his literary depiction
of Jesus in his Mark Secret.