Monday, March 15, 2010

Morton Smith WASN'T Gay

I really can't believe that we are even having a discussion about 'who is gay in New Testament scholarship' let alone that a circular argument of this sort (i.e. Smith was gay because he found a gay gospel) is at the heart of almost every book ever written about the Mar Saba document.. I don't have a problem if people in a salon dishing the dirt on 'who's gay in Hollywood' or the like.  But how did this red herring distract everyone from the meaning of the Letter to Theodore?

I forgot, we're living at the end of civilization and anything goes if you get enough people behind you, even in staid old academic scholarship.

In any event, I just bought the latest issue of BAR and almost never read the letters section. This time I did and stumbled upon two letters which happened to be from people who knew Morton Smith to be a heterosexual.

Again, I apologize to any readers of this blog who might be gay. I don't have a problem with it. If you're an attractive woman and your partner is even better looking, I whole heartedly support and want to participate. But in any event, for those who haven't bought your copy of this months issue here are the two letters which I think are worth the price of the magazine. I have retained the headlines from BAR:


Bravo! In the past you fought the good fight for the release of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now you've taken on the issue of 'the Secret Gospel of Mark' and Morton Smith.

I studied with Morton Smith at Columbia University (while attending Barnard College) from 1957 to 1960. He was an inspiring, brilliant and intellectually honest mentor.

In 1958 he told me of his experience at Mar Saba, where he found the Clement letter. Working around the monks' sleep-and wake schedule was difficult. At times he couldn't access the library. The atmosphere was one of secrecy. The food didn't agree with him either. The first night at dinner, he was the guest of honor. The monks floated a live baby squid on top of his soup, which he was obliged to eat! The food got worse after that!

About Morton Smith's "alleged homosexuality" - he dated my mother Miriam Chesterman from late 1957 to 1958. She was a recent widow, British-born, beautiful, vivacious and highly intelligent.

I strongly support your efforts to reach the truth about Secret Mark and clear Morton Smith's reputation.

Ethne H Chesterman
Pompano Beach, Florida


My favorite vision of Morton Smith is this bowlegged little guy in Bermuda shorts clambering up the side of Mt. Tabor, looking for evidence that Jesus was a magician and how he managed to pull off the Transfiguration. It was on a trip in 1965 when I guided him to the Galilee.

I loved Morton: I admired him as a genuine historiographer. Morton would be delighted with your efforts, and he would revel in the vilification as well as the praise.

As for his homosexuality, I think he was just spoofing the trend that had begun back in the 1960s and 1970s to find gays in all the great Biblical literature. As for himself, I suspect that he was just an Anglican clergyman who had had an unsuccessful love affair and afterward condemned himself to bachelorhood. (Professor) David Flusser told me that, in 1941, Morton had a Jewish girlfriend in Jerusalem, probably a student at the Hebrew University. Flusser is dead so we can't get more details.

Anson F. Rainley
Emeritus Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Semitic Linguistics
Tel Aviv University, Israel

Of course, none of this will satisfy those who 'know' that Morton Smith was gay. They will say that only a gay person could be so convinced that Jesus was homosexual. I have news for these idiots. There's a name for people who think that Jesus was gay - Jews.

That doesn't mean that Jesus was gay. I don't believe that for a minute. It just shows how utterly unsophisticated these people are.  Like Morton Smith was the only one who drew this inference about Jesus!  Indeed for those fools who said that the fact that 'Secret Mark' references 'Jesus having sex with his beloved disciple' (something which I do not think for a minute is actually in the Alexandrian Gospel according to Mark and which Clement vehemently denies) that kind of logic means that the Jews as a people who passed on THIS story of Jesus having sex with his disciple Judas must also ALL be gay (which of course makes it difficult to explain how the Jewish people managed to produce so many children since the Toledoth Yeshu was produced).

I never cease to be amazed at how these supposedly 'learned men' have absolutely no sense of Jewish culture.  I am not suggesting that Jews are still reading or teaching the stories of Toledoth Yeshu.  The book belongs in a museum.  But I can remember hearing a garbled version of its account of Jesus' 'defilement' (albeit my grandfather told me it was by Joseph Pandera) when I was very young.  Here is the official version:

When Yeshu was summoned before the queen, this time there were present also the Sages and Judah Iskarioto. Yeshu said: "It is spoken of me, 'I will ascend into heaven.'" He lifted his arms like the wings of an eagle and he flew between heaven and earth, to the amazement of everyone.

The elders asked Iskarioto to do likewise. He did, and flew toward heaven. Iskarioto attempted to force Yeshu down to earth but neither one of the two could prevail against the other for both had the use of the Ineffable Name.
However, Iskarioto defiled Yeshu, so that they both lost their power and fell down to the earth, and in their condition of defilement the letters of the Ineffable Name escaped from them. Because of this deed of Judah they weep on the eve of the birth of Yeshu.
[Toledoth Yeshu]

As I have said many times at this blog, the very same reason people think or thought Jesus was gay applies to Morton Smith (i.e. they never got married/had kids). If people want to engage in this kind of fruitless gossip, there's no way of stopping them of course. Yet to think that these things are taken seriously by serious scholars. By this logic we should be citing the story in the Toledoth Yeshu as a 'source' about life of Jesus or the report in Tractate Gittin 57a portraying Jesus suffering eternal damnation boiling in semen as an 'alternative tradition' to the story of his ascension to heaven.

It's simply scandalous. There have to be academic standards which separate gossip, slander and innuendo from serious scholarship. In this particular case it is of course too late, but it is the next example of an unpopular discovery that worries me.

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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