Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's Official - Allan Pantuck Crowned Winner of the Secret Mark Debate in Toronto

I thought I might close out the reactions to the recent Secret Mark conference in Toronto with Ryan Wettlaufer's conclusions at the end of his three part series on the conference. Ryan is Canadian so you know that even though he went into the conference accepting the text was a forgery he couldn't completely close his mind to rational arguments to the contrary.

Wettlaufer a Canadian who believed the document was a fake going to the conference seemed to have come away thinking that the best presentation of the conference was given by someone with an opposing point of view:

Next came Allan Pantuck, who, surprisingly, is actually credentialed as a medical doctor and a urologist. I wondered then what kind of biblical studies chops he might have, and the answer was pretty impressive ones. His work was well disciplined, well researched, and very well ordered. If anyone could convince me of the authenticity of sm, I think it would be this guy. He presented - with very nice images of photos and scans - a survey of Morton Smith's own personal writings. The point of this survey was essentially the opposite of Piovanelli's: he wanted to show how Smith's life would have left him ill-equipped to create a forgery like sm. For example, Pantuck showed several personal letters wherein Smith lamented his poor Greek skills. He confirmed this with personal writings of other scholars who commented on Smith's poor Greek skills. These poor skills, Pantuck argued, mean that Smith could not have had the ability to compose a fake letter of Clement. Over all it was a strong presentation, though I wonder what Smith would have thought about his integrity resting on his incompetence!

Indeed the force of Pantuck's presentation seemed to open the Wettlaufer to other possibilities than his original presuppositions:

What was my reaction? I suppose I now lean towards some kind of inauthenticity. What I really came away with, however, was a better realisation of the variety of options outside of the "hoax or real?" binary offered by the conference's title. It could, at one end, be a real letter of Clement with real, secret excerpts of Mark. Or, it could be a real letter of Clement with nevertheless fake excerpts from Mark. Or, it could be a fake letter of Clement with fake excerpts from Mark. If the latter, however, the forgery could have been carried out by Smith, or it could have been carried out by someone prior to Smith - even long prior - so that Smith's discovery was, for his part, quite sincere. Finally, all of those options could be further mirrored into two versions: the one that sees the sm excerpts as describing a homosexual encounter, and one that sees it as an innocent reference to teaching at night. In other words, the sm subject is more complicated than I'd realised.

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