Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
StephenGoranson
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by StephenGoranson » Sat Nov 28, 2020 8:56 am

Though maybe not relevant for the OP, Secret Alias wrote, “…I think Morton Smith's student Shaye Cohen presented evidence that your beloved corpus of Josephus was likely a forgery or at least an original Aramaic hypomnema of Josephus was heavily interpolated into the existing Greek texts we now possess. Thackeray too for that matter. I don't see you refrain from using Josephus to piece together your interest in the Essenes.”
Where did Shaye Cohen and Thackeray present that?
Though Josephus is not 100% reliable (no surprise), maybe remember that Philo of Alexandria wrote all his works before Josephus wrote any of his works. And that Pliny and Dio Chrysostom appear to be independent tradents.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Nov 28, 2020 11:01 am

My point was intended as follows.

The real issue at the heart of using the Letter to Theodore as I can see is as follows:

1. our understanding of history depends on the use of 'good' historical sources
2. the use of 'poor' historical documents might compromise our understanding of history.

I know for people of faith there is another consideration - i.e. that 'the Devil' has always sought to corrupt the faith of the Church and we, as a culture, need to be 'on guard' against attempts to sully the pristine teachings of Christianity - but that has no relevance here. We are speaking as men of science rather than people of faith. I do think these arguments become blurred in the study of religion because many of the scholars of religion are apologists explicit or otherwise. As such we must consider to Theodore only as a threat to science, to our understanding of history rather than 'spiritual' concerns.

To that end, we've had almost 70 years since the discovery. There is no evidence to support the exclusion of the document from our understanding of history. It is of course possible that Smith was so masterful in the manufacture of his forgery that it has evaded our detection. The corruption - i.e. the forgery itself - could have developed in antiquity. But in either case we are stuck with a text which appears authentic enough that it is in keeping with all that we know of the Greek language, the way ancient letters were written, the way the gospels were studied and interpreted, the traditions of early Christianity that this 'compatibility' for lack of a better word means that little or no harm will come to the study of early Christianity as a result of our including the document with other works of Clement of Alexandria.

The parallel with Josephus is important to note. If Cohen is correct and there is an underlying 'agreement' between Vita and the Jewish War - i.e. a core text which might be the only thing that the historical Josephus ever wrote, that this text was likely written in Aramaic and then translated and expanded by assistants into the texts of existing Josephan corpus we necessarily accept that some corruption may have developed within our transmitted texts. Let's suppose that Josephus never had a Greek patron and that references to that figure were added by the 'assistants' translating his lost original Aramaic material. These claims about Josephus compromise our understanding of ancient history. They corrupt our understanding of Josephus. The same is true with respect to the corruption and expansion of the Ignatian letters etc.

I don't believe the story about the Jewish rebels becoming crossdressers behind the walls of Jerusalem and terrorizing the residents of the city. It seems to me to be the kind of story that came along at a later date. The idea that these soldiers became transvestites has a much stronger homosexual theme than anything in Secret Mark. We accept this implausible bit of history because we are desperate for information about the War. It is almost certainly spurious but no one makes too big a deal about it. No one accuses Josephus of being homosexual or his 'assistants.' It's just a silly bit of nonsense that somehow got picked up along the way in the existing manuscripts. Nevertheless the presence of this nonsense in the one source we have available to us for information on the events of 66 - 70 CE necessarily compromises our understanding of what happened. These crossdressing rebels make their way into our studies of the War https://www.academia.edu/33793894/Gende ... d_Josephus As such a homosexual narrative has 'corrupted' the original history of Josephus. But we get along anyway. We still use Josephus in spite of the narrative being corrupted. Life goes on.

The Ignatian letters may well contain wholly forged letters. The Pastorals represent wholly forged Pauline epistles. The Marcionites claim the rest of the Pauline epistles contain a large number of interpolations as well as the gospels. Acts likely has come down to us in a corrupt form. Nevertheless we continue to use compromised texts and essentially 'hope for the best.' I think it is important to do the same with the Letter to Thedoore. There is no wholly persuasive argument the text is a forgery - either ancient or modern. We just have to use and many other questionable texts and hope for the best. No one seriously believes the Jewish soldiers were gay because of the histories of Josephus. No one should believe that Jesus is gay because of the Letter to Theodore. Life goes on. We are working within a field with mostly bad or corrupted sources. It's about time we recognized that situation and move on.

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Achamoth
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Achamoth » Sat Nov 28, 2020 2:58 pm

I'm still waiting for you to explain why "secret mark" is a big deal in the first place.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Nov 28, 2020 9:03 pm

A top 3 reasons

1. Markan episcopacy in Alexandria (Eusebius 2, 16, 24 Jerome De Vir. Illust 8, Apostolic Constitutions 7, 46 Epiphanius Hær 60, 6) and by many later authorities.
2. It contextualizes various allusions to a secret gospel (AH 3.2, Tertullian De praescriptione haereticorum 24, 25) used among heretical groups.
3. Has witheringly exposed subjectivity in the humanities, especially in the field of early Christianity

StephenGoranson
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by StephenGoranson » Sun Nov 29, 2020 5:48 am

Though I do not have a copy at hand, Shaye Cohen’s 1979 book (based on his 1975 dissertation), Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and His Development as a Historian, as I recall from reading in the 1980s, does not deny that Josephus wrote Antiquities, but as the title suggests (his development from his Galilee years to his Rome years), Cohen actually discusses precisely Antiquities as a work of Josephus. From an online Google Books snippet (p.65 n.131): “He [Josephus] finds it necessary to mention Tiberius’ death three times in AJ [Antiquities of the Jews] (18.89, 124 and 224).”
Some fakes, e.g., the “Donation of Constantine,” took centuries to discredit; to the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” that happened fast. No serious scholar uses them. Several scholars, including Murgia, (and Flusser, and Jensen, et al.) already recognized the text as bogus. Several knew this before me.
Morton Smith became an Episcopal deacon, then a priest, a believing Christian, presumably, according to those who ordained him. Later, he was an atheist who actively mocked Christian belief. The post-Eusebius imitation of Clement accords with these facts.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:07 am

I put Cohen AND Thackeray in my comments as two perspectives on the matter. The point again is that Jesus is no more gay because of Secret Mark than the Jewish rebels were a transvestite military corps because of Josephus. We've managed to deal with a forged Josephus (I don't accept that the historical Josephus claimed the rebels were transvestites in his hypomnema) and developed a critical understanding of 66 - 70 CE in spite of a homosexual addition to Josephus, Secret Mark or the Letter to Theodore poses even less of a challenge to our understanding of the historical Jesus with what has to be said is at best its ambiguous homosexual reference. The point is that we use corrupt texts all the time and the sky hasn't fallen on the study of history. Some would argue that any critical understanding of ancient literature necessarily accepts textual forgeries as a given. As such the possibility that this or that individual witness is a forgery does not compromise the integrity of the broader investigation.

When the evidence for to Theodore's inauthenticty is made made manifest that's when we refrain from using it. Not before then. Almost no ancient religious text is above suspicion as to it being a pseudepigraphon or being an original work subsequently tampered with. The Pentateuch began the process for which to Theodore may be only the most recent example. All sacred texts bound by deceitful commonality. The historians job has changed in the post-modern age - to rescue truth from an original corruption or a corrupt line of transmission with EVERY text, no exceptions.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Nov 29, 2020 7:43 am

It would be interesting and more than useful to compile a list of Biblical and related texts who have been identified as pseudepigrapha or texts that have been identified to have been passed down to us in a corrupt form. The Pentateuch has been mentioned but Deuteronomy as a secondary corruption. The surviving "Jewish" edition of Exodus and the Book of Joshua. Isaiah. The gospel. The gospel of Matthew. Luke. Acts. The Pauline letters. The Pastorals. Hebrews. The Apocalypse of John. Josephus. 1 and 2 Clement. The Ignatius Corpus. Polycarp. Dialogue with Trypho. The second Apology of Justin. Hegesippus. The writings of Irenaeus, Clement, Origen, Callistus, Tertullian. The Circuits of Peter. It would seem the Letter to Theodore as a forgery is right at home with peer literature from the ancient period.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Nov 29, 2020 8:07 am

Religious scholars are a little like romantic teenagers who have uncovered unfaithfulness in a stunningly beautiful debutante. They act like the naive portrait of young Prince Charles in the Crown. These aren't virgin texts we study but whore texts and the canon of writings a brothel. I am not the first to have said this. I am paraphrasing Dositheus the Samaritan https://books.google.com/books?id=aM0UA ... ot&f=false.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Secret Alias » Sun Nov 29, 2020 11:58 am

The 'spurious' writings in Eusebius:
Since we are dealing with this subject it is proper to sum up the writings of the New Testament which have been already mentioned. First then must be put the holy quaternion of the Gospels; following them the Acts of the Apostles. After this must be reckoned the epistles of Paul; next in order the extant former epistle of John, and likewise the epistle of Peter, must be maintained. After them is to be placed, if it really seem proper, the Apocalypse of John, concerning which we shall give the different opinions at the proper time. These then belong among the accepted writings. Among the disputed writings, which are nevertheless recognized by many, are extant the so-called epistle of James and that of Jude, also the second epistle of Peter, and those that are called the second and third of John, whether they belong to the evangelist or to another person of the same name. Among the rejected writings must be reckoned also the Acts of Paul, and the so-called Shepherd, and the Apocalypse of Peter, and in addition to these the extant epistle of Barnabas, and the so-called Teachings of the Apostles; and besides, as I said, the Apocalypse of John, if it seem proper, which some, as I said, reject, but which others class with the accepted books. And among these some have placed also the Gospel according to the Hebrews, with which those of the Hebrews that have accepted Christ are especially delighted. And all these may be reckoned among the disputed books. But we have nevertheless felt compelled to give a catalogue of these also, distinguishing those works which according to ecclesiastical tradition are true and genuine and commonly accepted, from those others which, although not canonical but disputed, are yet at the same time known to most ecclesiastical writers — we have felt compelled to give this catalogue in order that we might be able to know both these works and those that are cited by the heretics under the name of the apostles, including, for instance, such books as the Gospels of Peter, of Thomas, of Matthias, or of any others besides them, and the Acts of Andrew and John and the other apostles, which no one belonging to the succession of ecclesiastical writers has deemed worthy of mention in his writings.
So for Eusebius - not Giuseppe or some other crackpot at this forum - the only certainly authentic texts are:

(1) the Gospels
(2) the Acts of the Apostles
(3) the epistles of Paul
(4) the (first) epistle of John
(5) the (first) epistle of Peter

Every other text in earliest Christianity had authenticity questions WITHIN the Church. If we subtract Marcionite objections:

(1) the (first) epistle of John
(2) the (first) epistle of Peter

Or at least, I've never heard a Marcionite objection to these two texts.

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Achamoth
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Re: Did Morton salt Mar Saba?

Post by Achamoth » Sun Nov 29, 2020 3:09 pm

Even granting your argument that the letter is authentic and that "secret mark" is truly the original reading, so what?

If you add it to our Mark it merely explains who the man in the Baptismal shroud was during the following arrest scene. It has no effect on the overall narrative of the Gospel. The whole scandal makes a mountain out of something that isn't even a molehill as far as the history or theology of Christianity is concerned.

If Smith is a towering figure among apologists for atheism that is only because he was surrounded by runts.

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