Secret Mark vs Mythicism

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stephan happy huller
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Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by stephan happy huller » Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:53 am

I wrote a blog post that I won't even link here (it's nothing special) comparing the arguments for Secret Mark being a 'hoax' and those in favor of mythicism and came to the conclusion that there were uncanny parallels. Isn't the strongest argument in favor of Secret Mark being a fake the parallels with the Hunter pulp fiction book? To me that is remarkably similar to the central mythicist claim in the blogosphere that Jesus is Mithras because of parallels between the two traditions. Why is one theory respectable among respected authorities and the other 'ridiculous' among the same figures when the arguments are really the same (i.e. weak parallels, similarities, coincidences etc)?
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Dec 20, 2013 1:42 am

Okay, counterpoint then. (since nobody else has stood up...)

The forgery thesis has a fairly high background probability, given the number of fake artifacts that have been constructed with a tie to Jesus or ancient Christianity. It also can claim motive and opportunity if attributed to Smith (the "gay" bit being one of the "uncanny parallels"). This leaves the question of means, which has been the centerpiece of the debate. If he could have done it, the fishy bits (and maybe the Hunter book is a sucky one) suggest that it is an open question whether he actually did it. There's no positive test, no smoking gun, for authenticity available to us (only some few various means by which it might have been possible to confirm the forgery hypothesis).

The mythicist thesis also has a fairly high background probability, given the number of mythical gods and saviors that were constructed in antiquity. So does historicity for that matter, given the number of various historical misfits and demagogues also. What they see -- and there's certainly room for debate here -- is that there are "smoking guns" in favor of the historicity hypothesis, chiefly Josephus or Tacitus combined with Paul (Gal 1.19) combined with the short window for legendary development in 40 years (Synoptics - taken as embodying oral tradition). This is more or less the outline of any historicity case that I have seen thus far, so it seems a fair summary to me. They believe it is not in reasonable doubt in terms of the practice of ancient history. (To be fair, they have some good points too, in spite of the general difficulty of interpreting all this.)
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by stephan happy huller » Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:46 am

Really? Based on what? The opinion of "authorities" without any evidence whatsoever. Nothing. Just the word of mostly conservative scholars. No evidence needed. Like the decree of a church official. "This text is true because it agrees with the truth, this text is false because it disagrees with the truth." There's no fucking evidence that the letter was forged. Nothing. Point to one piece of evidence that would stand up in court or even allow for a judge to consider the case. No, I won't even ask for that because there is nothing. We all agree on that. No evidence. So what's there to talk about? The history of this "controversy" is one pompous asshole after another dreaming up bullshit and being disproved by the facts but gathering up enough stubborn losers for awhile to keep this going. All except for Andrew Criddle who respect and love dearly (but is about to be also proved wrong on the Jesus Wife Fragment also I suspect). I also thought that one was a fake though.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by stephan happy huller » Fri Dec 20, 2013 10:42 am

And the second part of that argument Peter put forward deals with 'mythicism.' There is no proof that Jesus didn't exist. I don't see how it could be proved. So for the same reason that tradition says that the gospel is based on a real crucifixion is a particular year (disputed) I come down on the side of 'something historical' at the heart of the gospel narrative. There seems to have been many different understandings of who or what Jesus was so I don't claim to 'know' that Jesus was historical. I remain 'agnostic' about Jesus's humanity - i.e. that he was understood to be a human being of flesh and blood because an early tradition (the Marcionites) perhaps the earliest tradition held that he was an angel of some sort. But the gospel narrative was clearly presented as happening in a particular year and I go along with that general assumption in the same way I accept that Morton Smith's claim to have discovered a letter at Mar Saba. The letter may be a fake. I don't know. I don't see any evidence for that proposition. It might be a modern fake or an ancient forgery. It might be authentic. But I see no evidence against Morton Smith's claim to have discovered the document. I see no evidence against the idea that the gospel narrative developed in some way from a historical crucifixion.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:35 pm

The reply above isn't based on the premise that there is evidence "that would stand up" that the letter of Clement regarding Secret Mark is forged. It's based on the premise that there is reasonable doubt regarding the authenticity of the letter of Clement regarding Secret Mark.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by stephan happy huller » Fri Dec 20, 2013 4:45 pm

But based on what? There has to be a basis in fact somewhere for an assertion to be taken seriously. Otherwise how different is it than saying something like - 'someone stole my wallet, must have been the black guy' or 'whose the greedy guy, oh, it must have been the Jewish guy' or 'who's the bad driver in the room - the Asian guy.' Is that the level of proof we are working from here? Ok if scholars are allowed to develop arguments from 'their gut' then fine - abandon your mythicist inclinations. It's enough that 'real scholars' know it can't work.

The whole argument is based on a series of unproven - even ridiculous - assumptions.
1. Secret Mark is a 'gay gospel' or the Secret Mark fragment about homosexuality (totally unproven)
2. the discoverer Morton Smith was gay (totally unproven with lots of evidence to the contrary)
But according to these people - ignore that these are two unproven assumptions, they go on to say here - THEREFORE Secret Mark was a homosexual gospel forged by a homosexual!
'Therefore' - how it can we jump to - 'therefore' - after two unproven assumptions. Shut up, it's the humanities. It's not about proof it's all about developing arguments and attracting like-minded souls who WANT your thesis to be accepted.

But let us dare ask - why did the alleged homosexual forge an alleged homosexual gospel? Ah, now we've slipped down the rabbit hole. They have us where they want us. All they have to do is make us forget that we've just accepted two unproven assumptions. They want to follow them up with yet another unproven assertion:
"It is because he lost his faith and wanted revenge on the Church because he was gay.


Now we have three unproven assertions lined up. But there is a problem.

Morton Smith was originally baptized into Swedenborgianism. Swedenborg himself never got married and did not demand marriage on anyone. What was he rebelling against? An unmarried, mystic who claimed to have traveled to all the planets and found friendly worshipers of Christ on each planet? Really?

Oh well, then it is time to develop another argument. There is that Piovanelli's rabbit hole or if that fails there is Carlson's nonsense rip off of the Da Vinci Code (supposedly established years before Dan Brown). Where does all of this end?

The problem is that religious scholars have been so well trained by religion to posit a thesis first and build arguments to support it rather than working from evidence (i.e. a scientific method). Perhaps it is a problem with the entire humanities. I don't know. But it is senseless to start with prejudice and develop scientific sounding arguments without at least some proof that the text was actually forged.
Last edited by stephan happy huller on Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Dec 20, 2013 5:40 pm

There may be a double standard here, but it might be more direct to compare Secret Mark to, say, the manuscripts of Tacitus or some crap like that. Maybe Tacitus was cooked up by some humanist in the throes of the Enlightenment who hated corrupt kings and wanted a more democratic/republican Europe (or whatever). I think you yourself are adding more heat than light by throwing mythicism/historicism into an already heated-enough controversy over Secret Mark.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by stephan happy huller » Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:05 pm

I think the case for Mar Saba 65's authenticity is stronger than Q. Its way stronger than any mythicist argument. We have many people who saw the manuscript. It existed. Q and mythicist arguments don't even have witnesses. I don't how this even debatable.

People don't like "mythicism," people don't like Secret Mark but at least one actually existed. Mythicism is like Q. It's exists in a theoretical universe.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by Peter Kirby » Fri Dec 20, 2013 9:50 pm

Mar Saba 65, I like that. It's better than calling it Secret Mark because, after all, even its authenticity as a letter of Clement doesn't imply Secret Mark's existence... nor does its authenticity as an early modern copy of something in a written hand imply its authenticity as a letter of Clement. It's curious how people have latched onto the Smith-was-the-author hypothesis and started making loud noises against anyone who doubts that.
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Re: Secret Mark vs Mythicism

Post by stephan happy huller » Sat Dec 21, 2013 6:43 am

The tides have already turned. If I could just find some time to go to Princeton I suspect this thing would be over.
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