Friday, January 31, 2014

What to Do About Secret Mark

Regardless of your conclusions about the text, here is my take on this.  I can accept any argument which follows from the evidence.  As such this is an interesting read.  Nevertheless I don't get how any reasonable person jumps from 'there are things about this version of Mark which differ from our familiar canonical text' to 'therefore Morton Smith forged the text' given that Irenaeus and the author of the Philosophumena explicitly tell us that there were other versions of Mark in early Christian antiquity.

This is what I find so frustrating about anyone who seems to makes a massive leap of logic (the mythicists and their 'there were mythical elements in the gospel' therefore 'it's all a lie' is another example of this phenomenon).  That's the unfortunate part about being human.  We have to figure out what the right balance between 'self serving skepticism' and 'self-serving faithfulness.'  What is the best way to treat the Mar Saba document in my opinion?  Cautious acceptance of its authenticity - i.e. waiting until a conclusive proof of forgery comes along. 

Yet the fact that so many of the proponents for forgery are willing to embrace the most implausible arguments (i.e. those outlandish 'proofs' put forward by Goodacre's protege Stephen Carlson) have to give one pause about their motives.  Why would someone overlook using pitifully low resolution photos to prove the presence of a forger's tremor?  Moreover why would someone continue to hold fast to a stupid proof like this even when the weakness of the argument is demonstrated to them?  The answer is clear - their must be a psychological need present to 'assist' the weaker arguments and make them stronger. 

I think the answer in this case the answer has something to do with faithfulness.  Of course I don't know any of these people personally and - like most human motivation - it is dangerous to speculate about a 'universal motivation' for all examples of a given phenomenon.  But in this case I think it does apply to people who show a pattern of trying to 'debunk' every challenge to the authority our existing canonical gospels (i.e. Q, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Jesus's Wife etc).  It would be interesting to hear Goodacre write a critique of Marcionite gospel primacy.  My guess again would be he would come out in favor of it being of 'subordinate value' to Luke and Mark. 

In any event, as I love giving silly analogies, here is my example from the real world to demonstrate the dangers of excessive faithfulness.   It's like finding your spouse cheating on you and then using the argument that he or she 'seemed faithful' before new evidence was uncovered.  Okay, so everyday she darned your socks and made you breakfast.  But now you read her emails and found something that contradicted your inherited assumptions about her.  Get over worshiping your presuppositions.

But what do I know ...

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