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Peter Jeffery on Morton Smith's False Manuscript

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  • goranson@duke.edu
    The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness in a Biblical Forgery, by Peter Jeffery (Yale U.P., 2006) offers further
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 16, 2006
      The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals of Sex, Death, and Madness
      in a Biblical Forgery, by Peter Jeffery (Yale U.P., 2006) offers further
      evidence that Morton Smith composed the MS claimed to be a Letter of Clement of
      Alexandria that quoted a Secret Gospel of Mark. Jeffery examines the history of
      liturgy and finds that Smith's imagined initiation ceremony did not fit the
      practice in Alexandria at the time. Jeffery shows that Smith pursued fairly
      desultory work in cataloging the Mar Saba library, if that had been his main
      purpose. For example, why didn't Smith examine the folder of old MS fragments,
      if his interest had been to find old texts? Smith didn't bother to check in the
      Jerusalem library (where most Mar Saba MSS had been moved) for texts by the same
      hand as his claimed find. And, as I noted previously, why didn't Smith--who
      published the admonition for scholars to check old books for marginal
      annotations--say anything about the 1646 Voss book margins?

      Jeffery engages previous critiques of Smith's claims mostly merely quite
      briefly, and goes his own way. So the work of integrating his insights with
      previous scholarship remains for reviewers to evaluate. The book is not free of
      errors; on page 2 Jeffery says Smith got his "second doctorate" at Hebrew
      University, but that 1945 degree was before his 1957 Harvard Th.D. Perhaps
      others will comment on Jeffery's Roman Catholic perspective on the Anglican
      church and on homosexuality. In any case, this is a learned and lively book
      that, in my view, shows even more than before that Smith wrote the Letter with
      Secret Mark.

      Jeffery wrote (p.263 n.65) that Smith's 1958 private publication Manuscript
      Material from the Monastery of Mar Saba, Discovered, Transcribed and Translated
      by Morton Smith "no doubt" included photographs. Perhaps so, but he has not seen
      it (nor I). It was an exceedingly limited publication. The Smith papers (minus
      letters destroyed; except for the Scholem correspondence, originals of both
      sides, preserved in Jerusalem) are being cataloged at Jewish Theological
      Seminary. Those papers may provide more insight.

      Stephen Goranson
      http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
    • Loren Rosson
      ... I ve read four of the book s eleven chapters so far. It s proving to be very interesting, and certainly every bit as much fun as Carlson s Gospel Hoax. So
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 16, 2006
        goranson@... wrote:

        > The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined Rituals
        > of Sex, Death, and Madness
        > in a Biblical Forgery, by Peter Jeffery (Yale U.P.,
        > 2006) offers further
        > evidence that Morton Smith composed the MS claimed
        > to be a Letter of Clement of
        > Alexandria that quoted a Secret Gospel of Mark.

        I've read four of the book's eleven chapters so far.
        It's proving to be very interesting, and certainly
        every bit as much fun as Carlson's Gospel Hoax.

        So far Jeffery's argument complements Carlson's case
        for Clement's letter showing itself to the product of
        the 1950s. In chapter three, for instance, he argues
        that while Secret Mark certainly suggests an
        initiation rite, its combination of resurrection
        symbolism, a period of teaching followed by a night
        vigil, and the wearing of a white cloth suggest
        20-century Anglican concerns (p 70). And second,
        "Clement and the Alexandrian church, in particular,
        held to a different theology of baptism that was based
        not on the Easter event of Jesus' resurrection, but on
        the Epiphany event of Jesus' baptism by John." (ibid)
        So Smith's hoax not only has the 20th-century Anglican
        liturgical renewal behind it (just as it evokes the
        50s milieu for American gay men, per Carlson), but it
        relies on Pauline associations between baptism and
        resurrection motifs (Rom 6) instead of baptism and
        epiphany motifs (i.e. creation, heavens opening with
        light, the descent of the Holy Spirit and fire, the
        seal of priestly and messianic anointings) (see p 68).

        And in a footnote on p 271, Jeffery says that his work
        is compatible with Carlson's, with only a slight
        disclaimer: "While I don't deny the motives that
        Carlson ascribes to Smith (Gospel Hoax, pp 78-86), I
        think there were more compelling motivations, which I
        identify in Chapter 11."

        I hope to have a full review of this book for the list
        when I've finished it.

        Loren Rosson III
        Nashua NH
        http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/



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      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... Jeffery gets it right on p. 150, so it might be some kind of lapse. Perhaps not a lapse but an error in his source, Jeffery reports on p. 150 that Smith s
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 29, 2006
          At 06:30 AM 11/16/2006 -0500, goranson@... wrote:
          >The book is not free of
          >errors; on page 2 Jeffery says Smith got his "second doctorate" at Hebrew
          >University, but that 1945 degree was before his 1957 Harvard Th.D.

          Jeffery gets it right on p. 150, so it might be some kind of lapse.
          Perhaps not a lapse but an error in his source, Jeffery reports on
          p. 150 that Smith's first name is "Robert." According to my sources,
          including U.S. Census records, the first name is actually "Rupert,"
          the same first name as his father, Rupert Henry Smith.

          >In any case, this is a learned and lively book
          >that, in my view, shows even more than before that Smith wrote the Letter with
          >Secret Mark.

          Stephen
          --
          Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
          Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
          Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
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