Smith's Letter of Clement & James Hunter's Mystery of Mar Saba
- As virtually everyone knows, Stephen C. Carlson (based on earlier comments by Robert Price) openly questioned whether Morton Smith had staged a hoax, loosely following the plot line of a book by James Hogg Hunter, Mystery of Mar Saba (1940).
According to an online review posted by Kurt A. Beard: "The Mystery of Mar Saba by James H. Hunter is a novel [set] during the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany about a plot to destroy Britain by destroying Christianity. The book revolves around a secret cult, "the Hooded Ones," attempting to forge a document referred to as "the Shred of Nicodemus," which refutes the Resurrection [which they place in the monastery of Mar Saba]. The hope is that the documents [discovery and sensational]release will demoralize the British empire making it easier for Hitler to conquer Europe. ... I can spoil a bit of the mystery and say the forger works and the British Empire and the United States are thrown into disarray." Beard concludes "This book is anti-German (Professor Heimworth who foists the forgery on the world), anti-Muslim (the Scar and "the Hooded Ones" [who create the forgery)], pro Israel [presumably "pro-Jewish"]."
http://delayedepiphany.blogspot.com/2008/01/mystery-of-mar-saba-by-james-h.html (mind the word wrap)
A while ago, in a public post to Andrew Criddle on Internet Infidels (now FRDB), I wondered just where Hunter came up with that specific plot line (document confuting Christianity found at Mar Saba).
Recently, while searching Google for available copies, I realized that the author's full name is James Hogg Hunter. Hogg is the surname of the famous evangelical Scottish missionary John Hogg D.D. (1833-86), who worked to evangelize Coptic Christians for the United Presbyterian Church and operated a theological school in Assiut, Egypt, from 1860 until his death. He was trained in Latin & Greek, and also became fluent in Arabic. He knew and worked with Copts, Greek Orthodox, Jews and Muslims, and had visited Jerusalem. Before his death, he was preparing a careful comparison between the recently discovered Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions, for use in evangelizing Copt monks and clergy. Some may remember that stories about Hogg told to Kenneth E. Bailey by the al-Muti'ah Evangelical community in 1961, and then compared to Rena L. Hogg's 1914 biography of her father, _A Master-builder on the Nile: being a record of the life and aims of John Hogg D.D., A Missionary_, were used as illustrations for Bailey's theory of "informal controlled oral tradition." Rena L. Hogg's bibliography can be downloaded at the address below:
http://books.google.com/books?id=WKQEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=%22john+hogg%22+%22bessie+kay%22&source=bl&ots=GKtzyRLIxL&sig=G5gxmIs4DYiPtvfW3jAEFtC92no&hl=en&ei=RXk-S7u4GtStlAfKvK2bBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAoQ6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=rena&f=false (mind the wrap)
Hogg's son Hope W. Hogg (18631912), who ran the Mission Training College, Asyoot [Asiut], Egypt, after his father's death until resigining in 1894 "due to changes in view regarding inspiration of scripture, etc." He then went on to Oxford to translate the Arabic version of the Diatesseron for volume 10 of the Ante Nicene Christian Library in 1895, and eventually becoming Professor of Semitic Languages and Literature, Manchester University, and a member of the editorial team for Encyclopædia Biblica. See _Minutes of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church of North America, Volumes 35-38 By United Presbyterian Church of North America, General Assembly, for the years 1893 & 1894, for details about his resignation:
http://books.google.com/books?id=AcMQAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA505&dq=%22hope+w+hogg%22&lr=&cd=20#v=onepage&q=%22hope%20w%20hogg%22&f=false (more wrap!)
However, his father John Hogg remained a staunch evangelical to the very end. This is even more apparent in a summary of his life written by "Miss Bessie Hogg" (who is probably his widow) included in the 1905 book _In the King's Service: A Mission Study Course along Biographical Lines_, Edited by Charles Watson:
http://books.google.com/books?id=VT_1mjLqZxMC&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=john+hogg+egypt&source=bl&ots=K5HYLh1MJ7&sig=j387wGZ2cU6LqNfW9frlIIq3ZYs&hl=en&ei=90I-S53-HMLjlAfa1PTjCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAsQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=john%20hogg%20egypt&f=false (wrap wrap wrap ... aarrgh!)
What's that got to do with James Hogg Hunter? I don't know for sure. Hunter was himself an evangelical. Per Beard, Hunter's _Mystery of Mar Saba_ "is overtly Christian, one of the hero's becomes a Christian, something the damsel and our other hero's already are. The amount of Christianity in the books is almost overwhelming." I have to wonder whether he used his mother's maiden name ("Hogg") as a way to indicate a connection to the evangelical missionary beloved by United Presbyterians.
I'm hoping someone here knows Hunter's son Ian Hunter (author or editor of a couple very well regarded books about British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge), and could find out if his father had connection to John Hogg's family in Egypt, or ever mentioned to his children why he chose a secret gospel being discovered at Mar Saba as a plot line. I am aware of an editorial he wrote to the Canadian paper National Post dated June 30, 2005, in which he mentions his father's book in relation to the pending publication of Carlson's book, but he does not mention anything about these matters:
http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/news/issuesideas/story.html?id=13dd9255-06f6-4ef5-b1cd-715405529583 (etc etc)
Up until know, Price and Carlson have assumed that any similarities to a story about an unknown gospel that could affect Christian confidence and Smith claiming to have found such a gospel must be due to some sort of direct dependency of one (Hunter's 1940 book) on the other (Smith finding it in 1958), but that is not the only possibility. Essentially, could Hunter have reasonably heard rumors about an unknown gospel written in a book margin from a family member involved in misionary work in Egypt, and Smith just happen to be the one to find it?
Ironically, Beard notes that "The book [_Mystery of Mar Saba_] isn't well written, each character has several names, nicknames, secret identities which become a bit hard to follow," much like Stephen's reconstruction of Smith's laboriously elaborate "hoax."
Many thanks to those who can contribute (Andrew? Stephen?).
- From my reading of Hunter's novel, I had the strong impression
that the main inspiration for the Shred of Nicodemus and its
discovery was Tischendorf's discovery of Codex Sinaiticus in a
Greek monastery in the Sinai desert (which Simonides later
claimed to have forged). The similarities extend beyond a
similar discovery by a visiting Western scholar. For example,
both the manuscript that contained the Shred of Nicodemus and
Codex Sinaiticus also contained a copy of the Epistle of
Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.
Stephen C. Carlson
Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University
Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
Hunter may well have used select bits from a wide variety of actual events to construct his plot, as it adds verisimilitude to the fiction.
From the descriptions available, I can see a certain animosity towards German higher critics (Professor Heimworth), Nationalist Muslims (The Hooded Ones, Abid [slave] of the Scar), and non canonical gospels (shreds of Nicodemus). While all these things would have been common knowledge to most citizens of the US, Canada and the U.K. in 1940, they all also had immediate affect upon members of the missionary Hogg family.
From ca. 1860 to 1894 when Hogg's son Hope W. Hogg left the mission field, German Higher Criticism was in it's heyday (e.g., Dutch Radicals and others were questioning the inspiration of scripture, a key tenet of evangelicals), Muslim nationalist Colonel Ahmed Orabi (aka Orabi Pasha, or Arabi Pasha) fans anti-Christian sentiment by means of a number of subterfuges to wrest control of Egypt from the British, French and Turks in 1882, which prompted western intervention to keep the Suez Canal open to shipments of oil, and the discovery of non-canonical gospel fragments in Fayoum (1885), Oxyrhynchus (e.g., P. Oxy 1 in 1897), and later finds in Egypt in the early decades of the 20th century.
I'll see if I can dig up an e-mail for Ian Hunter.
Newton Falls, Ohio USA
James H Hunter's books:
The Mystery Of Mar Saba, New York: Evangelical Publishers [f|1940]
Adrift: The Story Of Twenty Days On A Raft In The South Atlantic As Told To J. H. Hunter, New York: Evangelical Publishers 
The Great Deception, Toronto: Evangelical Publishers [n|1945]
Banners Of Blood, Toronto: Evangelical Publishers 
The Bow In The Cloud, New York: Evangelical Publishers [n|1948]
Thine Is The Kingdom, Toronto: Evangelical Publishers [n|1951]
Uncle Jim's Stories From Nature's Wonderland Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House [s|1953]
How Sleep the Brave! A novel of 17th century Scotland, New York: Evangelical Publishers [f|1955]
A Flame Of Fire: the Life and Work of R V Bingham, Africa: The Sudan Interior Mission, [b|1961]
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Stephen C. Carlson
Sent: Friday, January 01, 2010 10:58 PM
Subject: Re: [XTalk] Smith's Letter of Clement & James Hunter's Mystery of Mar Saba
From my reading of Hunter's novel, I had the strong impression that the main inspiration for the Shred of Nicodemus and its discovery was Tischendorf's discovery of Codex Sinaiticus in a Greek monastery in the Sinai desert (which Simonides later claimed to have forged). The similarities extend beyond a similar discovery by a visiting Western scholar. For example, both the manuscript that contained the Shred of Nicodemus and Codex Sinaiticus also contained a copy of the Epistle of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas.
Stephen C. Carlson
Ph.D. student, Religion, Duke University Author of The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark (Baylor, 2005)
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