Peter Jeffery on Morton Smith's False Manuscript
- 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
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.
- goranson@... wrote:
> The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled: Imagined RitualsI've read four of the book's eleven chapters so far.
> 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.
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
Mortgage rates near 39yr lows.
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- At 06:30 AM 11/16/2006 -0500, goranson@... wrote:
>The book is not free ofJeffery gets it right on p. 150, so it might be some kind of lapse.
>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 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 bookStephen
>that, in my view, shows even more than before that Smith wrote the Letter with
Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481