by Yuri Kuchinsky
[posted and discussed at the IIDB.org discussion group, and elsewhere, in Nov 2004]
I would like to argue now that the Secret Gospel of Mark could not have been a modern forgery. Any sort of a massive SMk conspiracy would have been impossible in these modern times. So, I'm sorry to say, this just seems like a happy hunting grounds for the paranoid mind.
What I'm saying is that, realistically, the chances of Clement's letter, plus SMk fragments being a 20th century forgery are about 1 in a 100... more likely even 1 in 1000.
Indeed, to suppose that this is a 20th century forgery, one must pretty well see Smith as being a party to it, and thus part of a massive conspiracy to forge this document -- a conspiracy that would have involved many other individuals. Such as some of the monks of Mar Saba, and various other members of this Greek Orthodox monastic order, as well.
Because, at present, the monks are obviously concealing the original pages of this manuscript, and preventing their scientific inspection. So then they must also be a part of this hypothetical conspiracy. Otherwise, they would have been a lot more forthcoming with the manuscript, and the forgery would have been exposed long ago. Through the analysis of ink, for example.
Would these monks really want to see speculation about Jesus possibly being gay being spread around -- the way it is being spread now in various places? Of course not! So then why have they been stalling for so long, and not being forthright about the manuscript?
On the other hand, I don't think it's possible to make a case that this is a 20th century forgery without Smith being involved in it in any way... This would seem to assume that Smith was rather stupid and naive, and that he couldn't detect the hanky panky that was planted there in Mar Saba library so cleverly for him to "discover"... Moreover, this modern-forgery-without-Smith variant scenario must also presuppose a really massive and continuing conspiracy among the monks of the order, possibly involving also some high level biblical as well as Clementine scholars still remaining in the shadows. (How could a bunch of simple non-scholarly monks forge something that would have fooled nearly every professional Clementine scholar in the world, as well as such high calibre NT scholars like H. Koester, H.-M. Schenke, J. D. Crossan, and others?)
Thus, if this has been a conspiracy, then Smith must have been a party to it.
Now, how massive should have this conspiracy been?
Let's begin by saying that it would have been absolutely impossible for Smith to accomplish such a forgery on his own. At a minimum, he would have needed at least one accomplice -- the scribe to forge this very specialised 18th century minuscule handwriting. Nobody so far has raised any objections about the handwriting; all the experts say that they see no problems with it. A perfect forgery! Smith could not have written this thing himself.
But in order to find such an expert forger, Smith would have also needed an intermediary, or more likely intermediaries... You know, put the word out in the shadowy antiquity forgeries black market -- are there any expert forgers out there who might be interested in doing this very special job, for good pay, of course?
Yet, before he even gets to this final stage, Smith also needed to create three texts.
-- A rather long excerpt from Clement's letter.
-- The SMk resuscitation and baptism scenes (first SMk fragment).
-- The SMk incident in Jericho (second SMk fragment).
Each of these three texts has stirred quite a debate... At this time, there's hardly any debate about Clement's letter, as such, anymore. The majority view in the field is that it's authentic.
The debates still continue about the other two texts. (Including right here at IIDB...) Let's not forget that the third piece, the SMk incident in Jericho, if authentic, has very large implications for the history of Mark's gospel. Because there's an obvious gap there in the canonical Mk 10:46, and our second SMk fragment fills in this gap...
If we accept SMk incident in Jericho as an authentic ancient text, what this means is that, right away, our canonical Mk becomes a multi-layered document, that went through many stages of editing. That's right, multiple editorial layers -- involving both expansions and deletions. A view that is extremely unfashionable today in NT studies...
The bias of a typical NT scholar today is to see our canonical Mk as
a unity -- the earliest gospel from which both Mt and Lk sprang... Is there
any wonder that so few professional scholars are interested in examining
these SMk fragments honestly, and in considering what their real implications
are? For the history of Mark's gospel, they are truly revolutionary. (I'm
now working on a detailed study of SMk incident in Jericho, and its implications,
which I'm planning to post here soon.)
WHAT SHOULD SUCH A CONSPIRACY HAVE INVOLVED
And so, if Mar Saba manuscript is indeed a modern forgery, then Smith must have been at the centre of this conspiracy. He would have needed to create three separate texts, as listed above. Could have he created them all by himself, not being, himself, a recognised expert either in the Clementine field, or in the gospel of Mark, or in the Synoptic problem more generally? Hardly possible... So he must have also involved some of the specialised scholars in these fields in his conspiracy. The conspiracy keeps growing, folks!
And so, what we have now is this wicked and sinister conspiracy that keeps involving more and more participants... The monks of Mar Saba, plus going all the way up to the very top of this monastic order... The black market for forgeries. Crooked handwriting experts. Unethical Clementine, Markan, and Synoptic experts -- all working furiously behind the scenes in deepest secrecy, putting this amazing forgery together... And of course Morton Smith being at the very hub of this conspiracy -- the wicked Mastermind, he -- co-ordinating everything, and making sure it all goes smoothly...
Hmm... I wonder if we should also start bringing in the Bavarian Illuminati, and the Masons, here as well, at this point... Could have all this really been connected with the New World Order somehow, and Morton Smith's own Secret Masterplan for World Domination?
(Following some recent IIDB discussions, it has been suggested moreover by some of our rather overexcited participants that somehow Smith also had great expertise not only in those highly specialised areas of scholarship as listed above, but he was also a great unrecognised authority in the highly arcane areas of NT textual criticism, the Diatessaronic studies, the medieval linguistics, the liturgical studies, and possibly the Coptic studies, as well! By the looks of it, one might think that Smith was possibly the greatest genius of all times and places... yet keeping all that mysterious knowledge and expertise completely hidden from all of his friends and colleagues! The simpler solution, I think, is just to accept him as a normal human being.)
Well, my dear friends, it only needs to be stated now, of course, that, at this point, not a shred of hard evidence has emerged for any conspiracy. Those who are saying that this is a modern forgery should really just try and calm down a bit. Please, once again, try to consider these things rationally... It might just be all in your head, folks, really, I'm sorry to say...
So here's my logic once again.
If SMk is a modern forgery, Smith must have been involved in it. And yet, he could have never done it all by himself. He would have needed assistance. So, in order to create any sort of a realistic scenario for a forgery such as this, one needs to postulate multiple accomplices, who would have been able to render assistance in multiple fields. If one wishes to make such a scenario realistic, the conspiracy would tend to grow until it becomes rather large. But now, after all these years, after Smith's death -- with his archives having been available for public inspection -- not a shred of evidence has emerged for any conspiracy. How a conspiracy such as this could have ever remained concealed in our day and age? Thus, there was no conspiracy. I conclude that SMk could not have been a 20th century forgery.
Go to Yuri's Secret Mark Page.
to Yuri's New Testament Research Page.