Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Craig Evans Latest Attempt to Impugn Morton Smith's Reputation

It must have been a strange week for Evans. He started by taking the time to boil down what he felt were the most important arguments for forgery in an special article titled “Doubting Morton Smith and Secret Mark” for the website The Bible and Interpretation. It was rightly ridiculed - politely by James McGrath and less politely by yours truly and many others for its deceptive framing of key questions related to Morton Smith's 1958 comments on Vincent Taylor's Commentary on Mark.

Of course McGrath's arguments were better than mine. He is calm and can take utter nonsense in stride. I am sure that marking thousands of papers of the illiterate students that make their way into the university system help him keep his composure.

In any event, apparently Evans was surprised at the slap down and has went on to publish “Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark: Exploring the Grounds for Doubt” the paper he presented at the York University Conference this spring. Obviously he wasn't prepared for the new voice of reason in this ridiculous 'debate' which continues to be waged by him and others.

The bottom line is that there is nothing in this paper that is any more convincing than what he presented earlier in the week in his 'greatest hits package' over at Bible and Interpretation. As I said at Near Emmaus the other day - this is silly. People like Evans distort what is actually being said by Smith, the letter and the Secret Gospel, deliberately keep repeating their distortions and then act proud when other scholars lazier than themselves buy into the lies because they've heard them so many times.

For instance, Evans claims that Pearson still buys into the conspiracy nonsense perpetrated by Carlson when in fact I have an email from Birger after he was disappointed to learn that Carlson used low resolution images to secure his so-called 'forger's tremor.' Here's the email:

Hi, Stephan,

Thanks for sharing this with me. I read the Viklund pieces with considerable interest. It is curious that Carlson didn't avail himself of the color photos. Anyway, I agree with Viklund when he says that the only way we can finally know whether Smith forged the letter is to find the actual manuscript, and subject the ink to scientific analysis.

I assume you read the articles in BAR Nov./Dec. 2009. Hershel Shanks presented my arguments against authenticity, but he himself argued that Smith was no hoaxer, the position maintained by my Doktorvater, Helmut Koester.

Of course, there are many arguments against authenticity, in addition to Carlson's handwriting analysis.

Happy holidays,

The question isn't why Pearson is backing off from supporting the existence of a 'forger's tremor' by why doesn't Carlson's misuse of images trouble Evans? The answer is that Evans no less than his fellow Neusner associate Chilton continually misrepresent the evidence. The ends justify the means in a way that must call into question their objectivity.

As they want to raise suspicions about Morton Smith at every turn - none of which rise to the level of being a smoking gun - why don't they do a little introspection for a change? Why not ask themselves why is it that they never have any qualms about lies, misrepresentations, over-blown claims of 'suspicion' all in the carrying out of their seeming 'sacred duty' of bringing down Morton Smith? Is there something suspicious about their boundless ability to embrace 'suspicions' of any sort?

Could it be that they realize that Morton Smith might have been a better and more accomplished scholar than they will ever be? Could it be that this whole exercise demonstrates how painfully subjective and utterly arbitrary most opinions, beliefs and positions really are in the humanities? Could it be that they cynically recognize that most academics just blow with the wind? That they go were the 'network' for better jobs and better opportunities lies. Neusner and company got a ball rolling which reached critical mass with Carlson's shoddy scholarship and now Evans wants us to forget - as he has forgotten - the 'decisive' forger's tremor which embodies all that is wrong with people on the other side of this debate.

The problem is that we don't forget, we won't forget because it has come to symbolize the very essence of what kind of wickedness these people have been engaged in for over twenty five years now.

Oh, I should mention that Craig Evans and I became friends on LinkedIn today after he sent me an invitation. It's a Canadian thing. Who else am I going to watch hockey games with at the SBL conference?

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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