Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vacation Notes

I hope that at least some of my readers recognize that my last post about the vulgarizing of society pertains directly to the authenticity question with respect to Morton Smith's discovery.  I went through the Secret Gospel from beginning to end, scrutinizing the text for any sign of 'sexual innuendo.'  There are references to libertines and libertine Christianity.  But it is impossible to conceive of the work as 'pornographic.'  What the Church Fathers say about the libertines is more salacious than anything in the Secret Gospel.

The truth is that we live in a dirty, sordid culture which only becomes interested in anything if depravity is involved.  It would have been impossible to develop a conspiracy theory involving the Mar Saba document that would have any traction without developing these lies about Smith and his interpretation of the text.  It's really sad and pathetic catering to the lowest common denominator in this manner.  I think the reality is that the scholars that promote this stuff really have their minds in the gutter.

If you were to ask me my thoughts on Smith's book, I'd divide my comments into positive and negative points.  I think Smith is very conscious throughout his examination to express caution while engaging in speculative interpretations of the text.  This is clearly what makes Smith a better scholar than let's say me for example.  I tend to throw caution to the wind.

I admire the way Smith always reminds his reader that he might be wrong, that he can't prove something, that he doesn't know nor can anyone know anything beyond a few simple things about the text.

The weak points in Smith's analysis is that he seems to know next to nothing about the Marcionites.  Why should that matter?  The books goes to great lengths to trace the mystery of the kingdom of God with the original Pauline baptism rites.  How can anyone hope to know the original Pauline exegesis without invoking Marcion?  It is a remarkable glaring weakness in the book.  I can't believe that none of the scholars Smith consulted with before 1973 pointed him in the direction of Marcion.

Indeed if he knew anything about Marcion he wouldn't have wasted so much time talking about the baptism of John.  There is no baptism of John or even a John the Baptist in the Marcionite gospel.  But the Marcionites maintained the Pauline baptism that Smith spends too little time analyzing.  What was the scriptural basis for Marcionite baptism - often identified as a 'baptism on behalf of the dead' - if there was no baptism of John in their gospel?  The passage from 'secret' or 'mystic' Mark is as good a place to start as any.

I also get annoyed whenever the topic of libertine Christianity emerges in the Secret Gospel.  Smith doesn't seem to have a clue about the manner in which messianic movements in Judaism argued on behalf of their 'freedom from the law.'  He seems to be unaware about the concept of the jubilee and how Christian 'redemption' - and in particular Marcionite redemption - developed as a promise within Judaism.

Another thing which is worth considering is Scott Brown's emphasis that the text may have been called 'the mystic' gospel as opposed to a 'secret' text.  A great deal of the Secret Gospel is devoted to emphasizing secrecy to connect the gospel to Smith's own interest in magic.  If Brown is right about the text being a 'mystic' text as opposed to a 'secret' one the tenuous link with Jesus the magician also disappears.

And don't get me started on the attempt to link magic with Secret Mark.  It reminds me of Quinton Quesnell's interest in proving that Jesus permitted marriage among his disciples because Quesnell himself lost his Catholic university job after getting married.  Is all of scholarship this subjective?  Yes, I am afraid it is.

Back to my vacation.  Off to see Love again.  I really love Love.  Must be a libertine ...

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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