Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Appearance of the Television Production Jesus: the Evidence at Mar Saba in 1983 Almost Certainly Caused the Loss of the Letter to Theodore

There are three pieces of information which come into play here:

  1. the production of Jesus: the Evidence seem to have paid for a camera crew and Morton Smith to go to Mar Saba to do a segment with the Voss Book.  Morton Smith appears there in the vicinity of Mar Saba, the camera crew shoots him walking down a flight of stairs, they end up shooting images of monks walking in the monastery walking around the grounds of the Mar Saba monastery, the tower etc. However Morton Smith ends up doing a segment with a replica book with a 'facsimiled' manuscript in its blank pages in a studio somewhere outside of Israel.  The point here is that everything points to a failed attempt to film Morton Smith with the manuscript at the monastery.  
  2. around the very same time Quinton Quesnell appears to have gotten access to the very same manuscript at Mar Saba.  The dates are by no means clear other than it was June.  Quesnell told me he saw the manuscript still attached to the book in 1984.  He told Timo Panaanen he saw the manuscript in 1983 already separated from the book.  Admittedly I spoke to him almost a year later after his health got even worse than when Timo originally spoke with him.  
  3. Agamemnon Tselikas recently spoke with monks at Mar Saba clearly reflecting what I see as the impression caused by Morton Smith and the camera crew in 1983 rather than the sense that came from his previous visits.  Tselikas reports again that the monks said this about Smith "It is interesting here to quote the echo that exists in the monastery about his personality. The librarian told me that «the whole affair of the "so called" discovery of the letter raised by Smith himself in the purpose to create noise around his name and thus become known. Besides, he was a very strange personality. We believe that this text is 'manufactured' and we have not any interest of this»."
In my humble opinion the confluence of having (a) a visit from the first person to suggest in print that the document was a forgery alongside (b) the discoverer Morton Smith returning to the monastery replete with a film crew and appearing every bit to the eyes of the monks as an opportunist must have led to the disappearance of the manuscript.  

I still don't buy into the idea that the monks don't accept the book as originally belonging to the library.  Quesnell told me that he believed that Smith could have forged the text right there in the library.  That was his impression based on the fact that the monks allowed him to quite literally walk around with the book and manuscript (according to my understanding still attached to one another) within and without the monastery itself.  Quesnell told me that he didn't have a clue why the monks allowed him to have access to the document and refused the attempts of other scholars.  He even said that he had thought about bringing the manuscript to the police station which was nearby (or may actually have done so - it is very difficult to understand what he is saying sometimes now).  The idea that Quesnell had the document in his possession and didn't subject the ink to tests is highly ironic given his criticisms of Smith in his published articles for failing to do the same thing.  

I am working on getting the exact story straight here but if we accept Timo's conversation as more correct then the manuscript was still accessible in June of 1983.  By the time Smith came, with the pomp and pageantry of a million dollar television production in the early eighties the manuscript disappears.  I think there is some connection between (a) Quesnell's suggestion to the monks that the manuscript was a fake and (b) Smith's appearance there as something of a fame seeker.  The theory doesn't change much if we reverse the order and have Smith appear there first and Quesnell second, other than we have to explain why Quesnell got access to the MS.  

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