The M.Smith-G.Scholem letters and the "Clement" letter
- Just published: Morton Smith and Gershom Scholem, Correspondence 1945-1982. ed.
and introduction by G. Stroumsa (Brill 2008)--interesting exchanges between two
influential scholars. (Especially Scholem, whose From Berlin to Jerusalem I
also can commend.) This volume raises again the issue of the Mar Saba ms 65,
that Smith claimed was an 18th-century copy of a letter of Clement of
Alexandria quoting secret verses of Mark. Others, myself included, think Smith
composed and penned the letter. This volume won't create consensus; Stroumsa
proposes the "trustworthiness of Smith's account" and avers that "accusations
of forgery...have always seemed to me to stem from quite unscholarly grounds,
usually implicit rather than explicitly stated." (p.xxi)
I disagree. Consider Adela Yarbro Collin's 2007 Mark commentary which presents
evidence especially from the excellent scholarly observations of Charles Murgia
that the ms was an autograph and not from Clement. Of course Carlson, Jeffery,
Ehrman and others give addition reasons. AYC gives the new (to me) information
that Q. Quesnell managed to see the ms in the early 1980s (p. 491).
Among the facts from the Smith-Scholem letters: Smith wrote in 1948 that he was
working on the early Fathers, "especially Clement of Alexandria" (p.28). In
1955 Smith wrote that he was at work on a chapter "for a book on Mark" (p.81).
Later in 1955 Smith writes of "my book on Mark." (p.85). Scholem: "I am very
curious to see your book on Mark" (p.87). This book was "never published"
(note on p.81). Or, possibly, Smith switched from writing about Mark to writing
some "Mark." (After 1958 Smith again speaks of his Mark book, now meaning the
Clement one.) Absent from the letters is any sign that Smith followed up on
research into the scribe's possible other extant mss in Mar Saba or in
Jerusalem, despire opportunities and contacts and even his visit to Jerusalem,
Smith demonstrated no further curiosity about this scribe and his output,
possibly because Smith was already acquainted with the scribe, himself. (Even a
closer examination of the 1646 Voss book might reveal provenance marks--was it
at Mar Saba c. 1750?--unless the removal of the cover and title page--of a book
otherwise in seeming good condition--removed all such traces.)
In Secret Gospel (p. 14) Scholem is the first person Smith mentions as being
told about the ms (no Greek Orthodox hosts mentioned).
Scholem accepted that the ms was a copy of a Clement letter, which pleased
Smith (p. 160), but Scholem rejected Smith's mixing up of Jesus and Shabbatai
Sevi. Smith wrote (1976) "...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." (p. 170) Smith mixed up the
two. Scholem did not.