Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fifty Reasons Why I am not Afraid of Tselikas's Report

I have been friendly with Greek scholars across a number of disciplines for quite some time now.  I don't know how I got into this circle but here I am and a small part of the academic world is waiting with baited breath to see if he manages to prove that Morton Smith forged the Mar Saba letter by matching the handwriting of the Mar Saba document with the handwriting of another monk from another monastery.

Well, no one likes to be wrong and I am usually quite a spoiled sport when it comes to being disappointed.  But I can honestly say that in this case Tselikas's discoveries do not scare me one bit.  I am a faithful person by my very nature.  I sincerely want to uncover the truth about the Mar Saba document because the material compliments in many ways my theories about Alexandrian primacy.

My theories do not depend whatsoever on the authenticity of the discovered document.

But let's get back to the issue of Tselikas's discovery of a document in another Greek Orthodox monastery with identical or very similar handwriting to the Mar Saba document.  Of course none of us knows exactly what he found.  He is a very learned man.  Clearly something about this document leads him to think that it makes it highly probable that Smith forged the Mar Saba text.

Beyond that there is very little for to go on in terms of understanding what Tselikas discovered in this other monastery.  There is only what appears in Shanks brief message in this month's BAR which reads:

Based on our conversations, this is the basis for Dr. Tselikas’s conclusion: 

(a) He has examined other manuscripts from Mar Saba and concluded that the Secret Mark letter was not written by a monk there.

(b) He has located another document at another monastery that he believes was written by the monk whose handwriting Smith was attempting to imitate.

(c) He has also learned that Smith was at this other monastery examining manuscripts.

This, as best as I can reconstruct it from our telephone conversations, is Dr. Tselikas’s reasoning. If I have erred, I hope Dr. Tselikas will correct me.

This is what an English speaker (Shanks) got out of a number of phone conversations with Tselikas.  Shanks seems to acknowledge that even he isn't clear what what Tselikas's argument is going to be and the fact that "Tselikas has failed to submit a written report, missing several agreed deadlines, the last of which was shortly before we went to press" is also perplexing as I know for a fact that Tselikas already discovered these manuscripts by mid February.

How difficult would it be for Tselikas to have typed up an abstract in the two month period between February 15th to April 15th if he was absolutely certain that Smith was the forger?

Of course the Greek financial crisis hit around this period and Tselikas's organization works closely with a large Greek bank.  However I know that Tselikas has been traveling since discovering the manuscripts.  There has to be some other reason for not at the very least getting an abstract into BAR before the printing deadline.

My guess is either (a) he is not entirely sure that the Mar Saba document represents a forged 'imitation' of these documents or (b) he is waiting to see if the original manuscript of the Letter to Theodore is found in the Library of the Patriarch in Jerusalem.

The two might possibly even go together.

The reason that I think that (a) might be true is that my source had a slightly different explanation of the Tselikas's working hypothesis.  It was that:

What also Memos [Tselikas] told me is that he is checking-comparing the handwriting of some other manuscripts kept in various monasteries which may be hoaxes. If I understood well his reasoning: the scholar who is at the origin of this quest [I do not remember his name] has visited/lived in all these monasteries.

While both my source and Shanks admit they weren't exactly sure what exactly Tselikas was explaining to them, there is a key difference.  My source is very close to Tselikas and a fellow Greek.  On some level all the manuscripts must have similar handwriting otherwise Tselikas wouldn't have identified them as related to one another.

Certainly the fact that this writing was found only at monasteries other than Mar Saba is interesting as well as the fact that Morton Smith seems to have visited all the monasteries in question.  Yet I know from my own research into monasticism in the Byzantine period "the movement of monks from one monastery to another was a comparatively easy matter in the Byzantine Empire, despite numerous regulations."  I have seen first hand that the same pattern continues to exist today.  The old head librarian of Mar Saba now lives in a monastery in Thessaloniica.

Shanks indicates that Tselikas identifies "manuscripts in ANOTHER monastery" while my source speaks of "manuscripts at other MONASTERIES."  If my source is correct it would be difficult to argue that a monk who authored works at more than one monastery would be out of place leaving his handwriting at Mar Saba.

I also find it difficult to believe the argument that Shanks puts forward that Morton Smith saw a particular handwriting at another monastery and then used it as a template to forge the Mar Saba document.  Anastasopoulou might not have studied at the Sorbonne but it is impossible to believe that she isn't qualified enough to write the following about the penmanship:

this calligraphy writing, with so many abbreviations and ligatures looks like an artistic design of good quality. Although it is a difficult style of writing and needs a lot of practice in order to be able to write in this way; the text is written spontaneously with an excellent rhythm. The letters and their combinations are curved fluently while at the same time the grammatical rules are followed. The movement of the writing indicates a hand used to writing in this manner. The letters are written unconsciously.[p. 9]

It is impossible for me to believe that when Anastasopoulou demonstrates how conscious and 'unnatural' Smith's Greek writing appears AFTER the discovery of the Mar Saba manuscript that this could be the same person who managed to pull off the near perfect imitation of the traveling monk identified by Tselikas.  Something is absolutely implausible here.  I know there can be an unconscious mysogyny in our field where woman are subordinated to men in almost every respect.

Yes, Tselikas has an impressive resume but does that authority extend to all aspects of handwriting analysis?  I am not so sure.

In order to argue that Smith somehow pulled off the Mar Saba hoax you'd have to make the case that he unlearned the Greek shorthand that he used to carry out the forgery of the century.  In other words, he somehow could summon back ignorance of those Greek handwriting skills and go back to "writing is [which] like that of a school student."  As Anastasopoulou writes "It is obvious that his hand is not familiarised in Greek writing so as to be able to use it freely and with ease and be able to express thoughts and beliefsHis Greek writing is as learned in school, copybook, letter-letter, unconnected, carefully drawn.”

Now I can't claim again that I know what Tselikas has found.  No one seems to understand exactly what he is saying.  However the fact that in two months he couldn't formulate so much as an abstract for his paper lends me to suppose that he isn't completely sure he has the final answer.

We will wait and see.

But I am not sitting here worrying about Tselkas's final report.  This isn't because I don't respect his learning and experience.

I certainly do.

However there is a basic formula which has guided all my interest in the subject of Clement and Secret Mark which quite simply can't be completely ignored either.

As I demonstrated in my next to last post it can't be denied that Clement has connections with the Marcosians.  They are not only both 'of Mark' but Irenaeus' explicitly says that the Marcosians themselves connected 'another baptism narrative' in their 'gospel of Mark' in the section THAT IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS LGM 1.

Irenaeus' words are "Et baptisma quidem apparentis Jesu in remissionem esse peccatorem, redemptionem autem esse ejus qui descenderit spiritus ad perfectionem. And the baptism of John was proclaimed with a view to repentance, but the redemption by Christ was brought in for the sake of perfection. And to this He refers when He says, "And I have another baptism to be baptized with, and I hasten eagerly towards it." Moreover, they affirm that the Lord added this redemption to the sons of Zebedee, when their mother asked that they might sit, the one on His right hand, and the other on His left, in His kingdom. [AH i.21.2]

I have already noted that the use of descendo could have been developed to imply the 'naked man and naked man' reference in To Theodore.  But the real issue for me has always been how could Irenaeus have known that LGM 1 would appear before Mark 10:35 - 45 unless 'Secret Mark' was a real historical text:

And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightaway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb, they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do, and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said. "Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" "We can," they answered. Jesus said to them, "You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared." When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

It all goes back in my opinion to the idea that Clement was a Marcosian.  Once the world sees this, the existence of a rival Gospel According to Mark in Alexandria is hardly an amazing thing especially when it ends up confirm the 'redemption' baptism mentioned in Irenaeus.

Here are fifty parallels between Clement and the Marcosians that I developed last year which might help many believers in the authenticity of To Theodore sleep better at night:

Proofs 1 and 2 - both identify themselves as 'perfect' and 'gnostics'
Proofs 3, 4 and 5 - both show interest in a gnostic ritual called 'redemption' which frees them from sin and sinning in this life and made them equal to the angels who behold the face of the Father in heaven.
Proof 6 - both understand the Father to be androgynous who recreates man according to his image through a tetrad.
Proof 7 - both understood God creating through four letters
Proof 8 - both have a similar understanding of a choir of angelic powers in the highest heaven
Proof 9 - both understand the church as an assembly of aeons
Proof 10 - both develop an interest in a veiled hypostasis named 'truth'
Proof 11 - both understand the Word to be the 'dispenser of the bounty of the Father'
Proof 12, 13 and 14 - both hold that Jesus 'was indicated by the sixth conspicuously marked, becoming the eighth' who was 'is known by all those that belong to the called'
Proof 15 - both have the EXACT SAME numerological interpretation of the Transfiguration narrative in the gospel
Proof 16 - both have the EXACT SAME kabbalistic interpretation of 'the Alpha and Omega'
Proof 17 - both have the EXACT SAME mystical interpretation of the sixth letter of the alphabet (the episemon)
Proof 18 - both have the EXACT SAME mystical interpretation of the sixth letter in relation to the numbers seven and eight
Proof 19 - both had the same mystical interpretation of Psalm 19.1
Proof 20 - both had a parallel understanding of the significance of the contemplation of divine things
Proof 21 - both have the EXACT SAME mystical interest in the first four numbers adding up to ten
Proof 22 - both were attached to a gnostic baptism INTO Jesus most famously manifest in LGM 1 of the Letter to Theodore
Proof 23 - both had the same interest in the hypostasis Truth
Proof 24 - both had the EXACT SAME mystical interest in the numbers twelve and thirty
Proof 25 - both had similar mystical interest in the numbers four and twelve
Proof 26 - both connected the mystical number twelve to the zodiac in the EXACT SAME way
Proof 27 - both had VERY SIMILAR arguments surrounding the mystical significance of the number 360
Proof 28 - both had the EXACT SAME mystical interpretation of the number twelve and its relation to the months of the year
Proof 29 - both identify the presence of the mystical number ten in early parts of the Genesis narrative
Proof 30 - both identify the number four with the inner sanctum of the temple
Proof 31 - both had the EXACT SAME identification of the mystical number twelve with the gems on the breast plate of the Jewish high priest - via Philo of Alexandria
Proof 32 - both see similar connection between the human body and the mystical number ten
Proof 33 - both connect the mystical number thirty with the tabernacle in the EXACT SAME way
Proof 34 - both have IDENTICAL interpretations of Isaiah i.3
Proof 35 - both had the EXACT SAME interest and textual variants of Matt 11.25/Luke 10.21
Proof 36 - both were connected with 'heretical' gospels of Mark
Proof 37 - both had the EXACT SAME mystical interpretation for the letter alpha
Proof 38 - both understand 'Alpha and Omega' to mean that Jesus was made up of a pleroma of aeonic powers
Proof 39 - both employed Luke 2.49 to demonstrate the same mystical principles
Proof 40 - both employed the EXACT SAME textual variant for Mark 10.17
Proof 41 - both employed Matt 11.28 in the EXACT SAME way
Proof 42 - both understand the gnostic ritual of 'redemption' as "the mother of things which are incomprehensible and invisible"
Proof 43 - both understand that the gnostic ritual 'redemption' was a regeneration into Jesus
Proof 44 - both understand the gnostic ritual of redemption was 'for perfection'
Proof 45 - both identified the gnostic ritual of redemption to be connected with Mark chapter 10
Proof 46 - both understand that the hypostasis 'Silence' was seated beside God on the divine throne
Proof 47 - both identified the truth of their tradition to be passed on viva voce, something EXPLICITLY outlawed by Irenaeus
Proof 48 - both have the EXACT SAME mystical interpretation of the number twelve, thirty and the year of favor (Isa 61.2)
Proof 49 - both identify that humanity was perfected through the number six (in a manner which anticipates - reflects knowledge of? - LGM 1)
Proof 50 - not only do I demonstrate that both had the EXACT SAME mystical understanding of the REMOVAL of the sixth letter from the world as the CORE KABBALISTIC PRINCIPLE WHICH GUIDED MARK'S ORIGINAL COMPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL.  Moreover I have furnished proof that this kabbalah was known to Philo of Alexandria, thus connecting the understanding to a messianic sect of first century Jewish Alexandria which tied these principles to impending destruction of the world.

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