I was struck today by the use of the term 'hoaxer' by one of the Newtown parents against the followers of Alex Jones - https://www.apnews.com/c595b9e6ccb84b969d59c5b270f58cce. I've used the terminology in the same with respect to those who follow Stephen Carlson's 'Gospel Hoax' argument. Usually a 'hoaxer' is someone who promotes a hoax. https://www.google.com/search?q=hoaxer& ... e&ie=UTF-8 But now in this article - and formerly myself with respect to Carlson - 'hoaxer' is used to describe those accusing a 'horrific' fact itself of being a hoax.
Remember, the discovery of the Letter to Theodore is a fact. Morton Smith was there. The manuscript was there. The manuscript existed or it possibly still exists. The 'hoaxers' say it wasn't really discovered, it was planted there. But there is no evidence for this and it is a crazy theory unless - I would argue - you have a dog in the hunt so to speak. Unless you think that 'the facts' - even our inherited facts about Christianity - are an essential necessity of your personal existence and well being and - I would argue - you HAVE TO DEFEND this truth by not only 'being open' to Secret Mark being a fake but advancing a hoax hypothesis which - like Alex Jones's treatment of Sandy Hook - shows many signs of being a hoax or at least an invented mythology which adherents 'buy into' as fact.
Now I know that some people would say that Secret Mark is unlike Sandy Hook because obviously the murder of children is incomparable to anything else. What happened in that school is unthinkable, horrific, deserving of the death penalty or worse. But I want to remind people at this forum that one of our members - Steve Avery - is an active proponent of the Sandy Hook 'hoax' hypothesis as well as a bizarre theory that Constantine Simonides forged Sinaiticus. http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blog ... dence.html Of course, that's one nut. That doesn't mean that everyone who thinks Morton Smith was a forger is as nutty as this guy or these guys. But that's not my point. Anyone who has spent time at this forum comes away with the unshakable sense that 'people are nuts.' There are so many people promoting so many stupid self-serving lines of research it is utterly incredible.
From a psychological perspective (and I am not a licensed psychologist only an amateur one) the common denominator is developing a hoax to counter a difficult reality. Why is Secret Mark a difficult reality? Because if Secret Mark is true we have to confess that we are unlikely to know the truth about the development of the gospel(s). What I mean is that - for instance - let's say I was someone who spent my life arguing against the existence of Q (cough!) the authenticity of Secret Mark might not mean anything for that particular argument, but - if my purpose was to argue for the sanctity or the 'correctness' of the canonical four, my life's work was essentially a parlor game - a big nothing. Similarly if I was a popular atheist podcast developer who was raised as a conservative evangelical and all my efforts were to discredit and condemn the beliefs of my childhood, Secret Mark leaves wiggle room that Christianity might have actually been something else so again, all my life's efforts were worthless.
As a point of reference, I think that egoism is bad. The more we are at play the more we approach perfection. We should be just as willing to embrace a counter-argument against the sum of all our research up until today as we are arguments to defend our research. I know that is highly idealistic and even 'naive' but - in part - it explains why I never wanted to become a professional academic. I hate egoism. I hate it here in the forum but it's worse from professional researchers. We have to allow for the fact that all of our efforts will not make a lasting legacy for ourselves are likely going to be a big waste of time. This can't be the point of scholarship. If there is a worthwhile legacy to struggle to attain it is precisely opposite of defending a thesis - viz. THAT YOU WERE WILLING TO THROW YOURSELF AND YOUR LIFE'S WORK INTO THE FIRE IN THE NAME OF OBJECTIVITY AND TRUTH SEEKING AND TO ADMIT THAT YOU WERE WRONG!!!! That's the best legacy of all - that we admit and acknowledge that 'the truth' is all there is and 'self' and self-importance is a waste of time and effort.
That's my point essentially. The followers of Alex Jones aren't really struggling against whether or not an evil individual massacred school children in Connecticut, they are 'hoaxers' on behalf of a struggle against liberalism and tougher gun control laws. Those who claim Sinaiticus is a fake really aren't engaged in a parlor game about the influence of Simonides like Steve Avery himself likely the authenticity of the Byzantine text. If those promoting 'questions' about Secret Mark were merely a parlor game that would be one thing - especially if it were limited to a forum like this. But let's remember the SBL conference where a panel of mental health professionals tried to determine Morton Smith's mental state - https://salainenevankelista.blogspot.co ... -2009.html Of course research requires an open-mindedness to raise questions, but there is no actual proof of forgery - how can we move on to criminalize euphoria?
If evidence emerged that Morton Smith might have been the forger I think it is perfectly legitimate to investigate those lines of inquiry. But there is nothing - all of which brings me to my next point. What if we made researchers go in a room with a computer and a polygraph and they were forced to undergo a self-examination of the motivations for their research? I mean that sincerely. The evidence would be destroyed after the session so no one else would ever get the results but each one of us would get a one hour 'look in the mirror.' We'd have to ask ourselves - why are we so relentless in our fixation on a certain topic? Why do we believe this or that? Might that help research in general in all fields? Might that further objectivity? I am serious about this suggestion.
But it should be obvious that I think that the motivation for thinking that the Letter to Theodore is a hoax perpetrated by Morton Smith in 1958 is 'hoax-like' in that it is actually quite baseless. It seems to be perpetrated by people who don't like what the document says about our knowledge of early Christianity and the Christian faith - much like the Sandy Hook 'hoaxers' themselves with respect to the need of gun control. They say it is about this or that - it's not. It's about the triumph of the will.
Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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