Published Review or Modern Forgery?

Published Review or Modern Forgery? May 5, 2015

I just received notification that Review of Biblical Literature has published my review of Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery?: The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate: Proceedings from the 2011 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium, edited by Tony Burke. This is how it concludes:

I think it is indisputable that this volume represents an extremely important contribution to the study of Secret Mark. We hear from most of the major scholars involved in its study side by side in a single volume and are presented with most of the viewpoints they articulate and arguments they offer. The volume illustrates the difficulties involved in drawing conclusions about the authenticity of Secret Mark. If I had read only the papers that call it a forgery, I would be certain they were right. If I had read only the others, it would baffle me how anyone can still think it is a forgery. Reading both, I think that the case for authenticity is significantly stronger. But within this volume, most of the major questions, pieces of evidence, and difficult challenges are articulated clearly and effectively. The aim of reaching consensus has not been achieved, but the necessary groundwork if future scholars are to have any prospect of reaching that goal is certainly laid here. So I recommend this volume to anyone who is interested in Secret Mark or in the Gospel of Mark or in Clement and Alexandrian Christianity but most of all “to the one who knows” for certain that the work is authentic or inauthentic. The opposing viewpoints you encounter here will certainly provide food for thought, and they need to be considered before drawing a conclusion.

Click through to read the rest.

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  • Paul E.

    Thank you for sharing this. After you, in another thread, suggested reading Meyer’s chapter, I have read other portions of this book and it is fascinating. For what it’s worth (very little), I agree the arguments for authenticity seem much stronger, but I would be interested to hear what “kind” of authenticity you lean towards. Do you think it most likely to be an earlier or contemporaneous version of NT Mark, or a later revision by, e.g. gnostics, or some other possibility?

    • That I am less sure about. But the evidence that the language and thought fits Clement and Mark well suggests that this could well be a different edition of the Gospel by the same author. Whether it was created in order to be a more spiritual version is another matter – I’m not persuaded that John’s Gospel is best explained in terms of being “more spiritual,” either. That seems to be a way of dealing with differences.

  • John Thomas

    I listened to Dr. Tony Burke in the youtube video posted by Gnostic Wisdom Network that you referred to in one of your posts. I am convinced by the rationale he gave in that video about why he thinks that Secret Gospel of Mark could be a genuine ancient manuscript and not forged by Morton Smith as accused by Conservative Bible scholars. Additionally, the language of the gospel closely resembles that of gospel of Mark and it fits in and explains the instances before and after its suggested location by the author of the manuscript. Especially, it explained the event where the young man escapes from the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus leaving behind the only white linen he was wearing around his waist. I agree with Dr. Burke that gospel need not be rejected based on possible allusion to homoerotic tendencies in the narrative. It might only be in the eyes of the beholder. Spending the night with Jesus would only mean initiation into the mysteries.

  • Neko

    I had been wondering about the state of the Secret Mark debate. Thanks so much for posting the review!