Monday, May 30, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I am back from my 'vacation' - a week in Orlando with my son, mother, brother and his family. I have a very nice family. I love them very much but my wife somehow managed to spend a week at the Encore in Vegas on somebody else's tab.

I had a week off from blogging and some big news came walking through the door while I was away. I will tell you about all of this stuff later in the week. The immediate concern is that I managed to bring Morton Smith's 1973 book along with me for the vacation. Let me tell everyone, I was completely wrong about Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark. I now think it is absolutely brilliant. I don't see how anyone can possibly believe that Morton Smith forged the Letter to Theodore if you take the time to go through the work from end to end.

Yet how many of the 'hoaxers' have actually read this book in its entirety? Seriously. It is oft repeated defense of the authenticity of the document that the Letter to Theodore is an incredibly difficult feat to have pulled off as a forgery. You know, you've heard it all before. You'd have to manage to know how Mark the evangelist introduces his narratives. Then you'd have to write a Markan version of the Johannine Raising of Lazarus story and on top of that create a letter which introduces the new material which perfectly matches the style of writing of the Alexandrian Church Father.

However what doesn't get said often enough is the fact that we also have to factor in Smith's development of his 1973 analysis of said 'forgery.' This is the point at which the conspiracy theory simply becomes so absurd that no one who ever read the book can possibly subscribe to it.

For the attention to detail in this work is simply staggering. The book is so dense that it is almost impossible to read it from end to end. It reminds me of a rabbinic text in that way. Up until this vacation I basically flipped through its pages and just landed in sections quite randomly or simply looked up a topic in its index.

I think I finally managed to read the book the way Smith intended it is that I myself have conduct many of the same investigations. It is often quite comforting to see that Smith has actually noticed many of the things that I have about the text. For instance he makes reference to the fact that Clement speaks of more than one narrative in which Jesus is called the 'son of David' (there is only one narrative in the canonical four).

There are of course many more occasions where Smith and I have arrived at the same or similar conclusions. Yet this isn't the point of this post. What I want to say is that Smith's analysis of Secret Mark keeps skimming around a possibility that he never quite understands perfectly.

I think everyone who accepts the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore accepts in some form that canonical Mark was shortened from the Alexandrian longer gospel of Mark. Yet the one thing I walked away from his book was the possibility that Matthew and Luke might have been justified to a late second century audience on the basis that they represented canonical Mark + additional material just like the Alexandrian 'longer' gospel of Mark. In other words, Clement's formulation in to Theodore might have been a reflection of a generally recognized pattern already obliquely referenced in the writings of Celsus (Origen, Contra Celsum 2.27)

Could it be that Matthew, Luke and even John were reflections of patterns in Secret Mark ultimately obscured by the shortening of canonical Mark? More on that later ...

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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