I don't know if things were different when this entry was written on the Early Writings website, but today certainly the opinion among scholars on the authenticity of the correspondence by Clement is very mixed at the least. Robert Price, Michael Turton, Bart Ehrman, and Ben Smith don't believe that it's authentic. I suggest including commentary from writers whom you trust and are skeptical about Secret Mark.Although there has been some controversy over the letter, today it is generally agreed that the letter is authentic correspondence written by Clement. ... In his introduction in The Complete Gospels, Stephen Patterson notes: "The handwriting can be dated to around 1750. Smith published the letter in 1973. Early discussion of it was marred by accusations of forgery and fraud, no doubt owing in part to its controversial comments. Today, however, there is almost unanimous agreement among Clementine scholars that the letter is authentic."
I am also very skeptical that scholars who study Clement are "almost unanimous" that it is authentic, since there is so much controversy among scholars in general over Secret Mark. I can see that Clementine scholars would find the letter at first seemingly authentic as Clementine because as both sides admit, it is full of Clementine expressions. However, according to many reviewers, this doesn't disprove claims of forgery because a forger could compose a letter using the compendium of Clementine expressions, a copy of which Morton Smith possessed. Further, as I wrote in this thread, "Secret Mark" uses at least one English idiom word choice and word order ("And he remained with him that night" vs. the Biblical Greek manner of speech of "And with him (they) remained that (day)" (John 1:39).
Peter Jeffrey notes in The Secret Gospel of Mark Unveiled:
Including the work in an edition of Clement's works "provisionally... to further discussion" certainly doesn't sound as if the editor believes that there is near unanimity among Clementine scholars on its authenticity.<<The Greek text was added to the critical edition of Clement’s works, but ‘‘provisionally . . . to further discussion.’’ In the most authoritative bibliography of patristic writings, the Mar Saba letter is listed among the ‘‘doubtful and spurious’’ works of Clement.>>
 Maurice Geerard, Clavis Patrum Graecorum 1: Patres Antenicaeni, Corpus Christianorum (Turnhout: Brepols, 1983), 140 no. 1397.
(Page 24 on: https://the-eye.eu/public/concen.org/Fr ... veiled.pdf)
We don't have an overt admission by M. Smith that he forged it, but when asked about claims that it was a forgery, he responded by trying to assert that forgeries can be somehow authentic. Robert Price writes:
http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_secret.htmIn 1985 I asked Morton Smith how he responded to charges of forgery, recently renewed in Per Beskow's excellent book Strange Tales About Jesus: a Survey of Unfamiliar Gospels (Fortress, 1983). He told me the now-familiar story of the custodians of the manuscript secreting it away out of embarrassment at the notoriety Smith's book The Secret Gospel had brought them, henceforth wanting to suppress the evidence. He asked, furthermore, what business Beskow had in condemning all the more recent New Age gospels as spurious: if they embodied someone's faith, weren't they authentic gospels, no matter who wrote them or when? Later I wondered if his words did not apply equally, even especially, to his own Secret Mark!
One of the strongest arguments against its authenticity is the combination of the unlikelihoods that it would require:
(A) An alleged early Christian ritual practice - private gnostic-style instruction involving possibly disrobing and in my reading of the passage, homosexual activity - that was unknown or very rarely known until M. Smith's 20th c. discovery, was related in
(B) a gospel version (Secret Mark) that was unknown or very rarely known until the 20th c. discovery; the gospel version having an English idiom ("remained with him that night" vs. "they beside/with him remained that day" per John 1:39) and being related in
(C) a Second century Letter by a self-identified Clement of Alexandria (a "Pseudo-Clement" being also known in Church literature), unknown to the public until M. Smith's 20th century discovery, addressed to
(D) "Theodore" a Second century Christian leader (since he was able to take measures against the heretical version of "Secret Mark"), whose identity is unknown today; the letter being preserved
(E) in a flawless 18th century copy, which was unknown until Smith's 20th c. discovery, and which had been made in
(F) the back of a 17th century book of Ignatius' epistles, a book missing from lists of Mar Saba's books catalogued before Morton Smith's mid-20th c. discovery of the book, first catalogued by
(G) Smith, a professor whose research had already linked topics also found in the Letter, eg. "the Kingdom of God", Mark's gospel, secretive early Christian rituals, and Clement of Alexandria. (Smith's articles being titled: "Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels", "Comments on Taylor's Commentary on Mark", "The Image of God: Notes on the Hellenization of Judaism, with Especial Reference to Goodenough's Work on Jewish Symbols"). Ben Smith notes that Stephen Carlson
<<finds a paragraph in Morton Smith himself, Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels, pages 155-156, connecting the mystery of the kingdom in Mark 4.11 with secret teachings on forbidden sexual relationships. ...In the spring of 1958, Smith, who rarely wrote about Clement of Alexandria before, published a piece linking Clement’s notion of secrecy to T. Hag. 2.1[on forbidden sexual relations]... In his lengthy 1955 review of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on Mark, Smith suggested the existence of a common source behind Mark and John. Three years later, Smith would possess a new text with a form critically primitive version of the raising of Lazarus that lends support to Smith’s prior suggestion.>>(http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)
Along with this, Craig Evans writes:
M. Smith went on to write the book "Jesus the Magician", which like the seeming secretive sexual practices in Secret Mark, would tend to be unsettling or embarrassing for traditional modern-day Christians. The description for Smith's book "Jesus the Magician" on Google says:It was in reading Smith’s 1951 dissertation (Tannaitic Parallels to the Gospels), in the context of a study in the mid-1990s comparing the rabbinic-like sayings and parables of Jesus with the sayings of the Tannaitic Rabbis, that I began to have serious doubts.
In a paragraph found on pp. 155-56 of the dissertation, Smith discusses the possibility of “secret doctrine” in the early Church, as reflected in Mark 4:11 (“to you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God”) and in 1 Cor 2:1–7 (“we speak the wisdom of God in a secret”). Smith finds a parallel to the idea of secret teaching in early rabbinic tradition and appeals to Hagigah 2.1. (Smith refers to the Tosefta, but his quotation appears to reflect the parallel in the Mishnah.) Smith paraphrases the Hagigah passage as follows: “The (passages of the Old Testament dealing with) forbidden sexual relationships are not to be expounded to three (at a time) . . . and (Ezekiel’s vision of) the chariot may not be expounded to a single hearer . . . .”
For now, all I wish to note is the appearance of Mark 4:11 in a paragraph discussing, however briefly, forbidden sexual relationships. If you look at the Hagigah passage, you will see that it refers to Leviticus 18, which forbids homosexual activity (cf. Lev 18:22).
In an article that appeared in 1958 (BJRL 40 : 473–521), the year Smith visited Mar Saba, though written before the visit, Smith discusses, among other things, secrecy, initiation, union between believers and a deity, and Clement of Alexandria, who was fond of secrecy. Along the way, Smith remarks: “If a Jew [i.e., Jesus] could be supposed to invoke Beelzebub, he could be supposed to invoke Eros [the god of love]” (p. 485 n. 1).
In a lengthy and severely critical review (HTR 48 : 21–64) of Vincent Taylor’s commentary on the Gospel of Mark (1952), Smith speaks of a Markan “source with other Johannine traits” (p. 26) and of material that the evangelist Mark “would leave out . . . even if he did not deliberately censor it” (p. 35). Smith also returns to Mark 4:11, commenting that “the early Church had a wide variety of motives for attributing secret doctrine to Jesus, and among them may well have been the recollection that Jesus (also for a wide variety of motives) practiced secrecy” (p. 29).
I draw attention to these two curious proposals (i.e., the linking of the secrecy of Mark 4:11 to prohibited sexual practices and the idea that Mark’s sources may have included materials with Johannine traits) because they are the notable features of Smith’s Mar Saba find. First, Smith’s Clementine letter quotes a passage omitted from public Mark, in which a young man wearing a cloth over his “naked” body comes to Jesus at night and is taught “the secret of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11). Clement goes on in his letter to complain of those who interpret the passage in a “carnal” and “blasphemous” sense and asserts that the words “naked man with naked man” do not occur in the text. The discussion in the letter makes it clear that the passage quoted from Secret Mark could be understood and in fact was understood by some as hinting at homosexual activity. Secondly, the story of the raising of the young man parallels the story of raising Lazarus in John 11 (which Smith acknowledges and discusses). The long quotation of mystical Mark is an example of material at the evangelist’s disposal that contains “Johannine traits.”
In short, Smith claims to have found in 1958 a lost letter of Clement that contains two unusual elements that Smith himself discussed in pre-find publications, that is, works that Smith published in 1951, 1955, and 1958. What are the odds? Please understand what I am saying here. I am not saying that Smith interpreted his 1958 find in the light of his pre-find publications and interests. What I am saying is that his 1958 find (the Clementine letter and its quotations of a “mystical Mark”) contains the themes that Smith himself talked about in previous publications. This is what makes me so suspicious.
(F) is significant in the list above. This is because the absence of Vossius' book from the 1910 cataloguing of 191 of the library's few hundred books tends to suggest that the book was not present in the library in 1910. If you know that your car is in one of two parking lots (Lot #1910 and Lot #1958), and you do a survey that covers 40% of the first lot and don't find your car there, then your search makes it 20% more likely that your car is in the second lot. This is because the Percent unsearched in Lot #1958 minus the Percent searched in Lot #1910 = 100% ÷ 2 - 60% ÷ 2 = 80%. Hence it's more likely that the book was introduced into the library after 1910, like during Morton Smith's 1958 cataloguing and "discovery.""This book challenges traditional Christian teaching about Jesus. While his followers may have seen him as a man from heaven, preaching the good news and working miracles, Smith asserts that the truth about Jesus is more interesting and rather unsettling." (https://books.google.com/books?id=_XxaB ... navlinks_s)
On the other hand, one of the strongest arguments that I've seen in favor of its authenticity is the claim that it is part of Mark's chiastic structure, pairing up "Secret Mark" with the raising of Jairus' daughter in Mark 5.
There are other proposed chiastic layouts of Mark's gospel without "Secret Mark", and I am interested to know if there are rebuttals and alternatives to the proposed chiasm that includes Secret Mark as paired with Jairus' daughter.In 2003, John Dart proposed a complex theory of ‘chiasms’ (or ‘chiasmus’) running through the Gospel of Mark – a type of literary device he finds in the text. “He recovers a formal structure to original Mark containing five major chiastic spans framed by a prologue and a conclusion.” According to Dart, his analysis supports the authenticity of Secret Mark.
For those interested in "Secret Mark", I think that it's worth noting that Secret Mark's Passage # 1 (in Mark 10:34-35) lines up chronologically with John 11, the raising of Lazarus, and Passage 2 (in Mark 10:46-47) lines up with Zaccheus' story in Luke 19. Researching Secret Mark raised the question for me of the identities of the robed youth in Gethsemane and at the tomb (Mark 14 and 16) and of the Beloved Disciple. I think that John the evangelist is the Beloved Disciple as the end of John 21 suggests. And the robed youth at the tomb is identified as the angel in Matthew 28. But maybe Mark did not intend the youth to be a supernatural angel that descended from heaven and instead meant the youth as a real human, or even referred to himself anonymously in mentioning the youth?
One of the most curious aspects for me about the Mar Saba Letter and the story of its discovery are the coincidences that they share with earlier literature. One might explain the coincidences by proposing that the literature served as inspiration for a forgery by Morton or by someone associated with him:
(A) In ''The Mystery of Mar Saba'' by James H. Hunter (1940), a British detective, "Moreton", opposes the efforts of Nazis to plant a fake document at Mar Saba monastery that would undermine Christianity, whereas in real life, ''Morton'' Smith later claimed to have discovered the Mar Saba letter that in the view of many readers would tend to be unsettling for its description of alleged homosexual occult early Christian rituals, and Morton Smith did go on to write the book ''Jesus the Magician'' that would reference the Letter briefly and also tend to undermine traditional Christian views.
(B) The Letter that M. Smith presented had been written into a copy of Isaac Vossius’ 1646 printed edition of Ignatius of Antioch's letters, which Bruce Chilton noted is itself relevant to the issue of forgery. Chilton may have referred to how there is a forged, Arian version of Ignatius' letters. As Ben Smith noted, Stephen Carlson "echoes Bart Ehrman in finding irony in the fact that the Clementine letter was found at the end of a 1646 edition of the genuine epistles of Ignatius by Isaac Voss, a text intended to weed out forged members of the Ignatian corpus." (http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)
(C) In 1936, Otto Stahlin published a compendium of Clement of Alexandria's vocabulary and phrases, making it more practical for a later forger to draft documents and misatribute them to Clement of Alexandria. As Ben Smith observes, Morton Smith had a copy with his own marginal notes. (http://www.textexcavation.com/secretmark.html)
(D) Angus Wilson's 1956 novel ''Anglo-Saxon Attitudes'' narrates the false discovery of a phallic fertility symbol in the grave of the seventh-century bishop Eorpwald, a disciple of the English Archbishop Theodore. In the novel, an archeologist planted the symbol to discredit the site's excavator and other scholars. According to Philip Jenkins,
If M. Smith forged the Mar Saba Letter a few years after the novel was published, it could explain the source of the bishop "Theodore" in the letter. Tony Burke notes that "Jenkins sees a number of parallels between Wilson’s novel and Smith’s discovery: a forgery planted in an early Christian site, the association with the name Theodore, underground controversial clandestine practices, and accusations of sorcery (against Eorpwald in the novel, and against Jesus in Smith’s monograph Jesus the Magician)"(https://www.apocryphicity.ca/2014/04/19 ... ew-source/), although Burke thinks that the coincides are unrelated to M. Smith's discovery.''“much of the book depicts English gay subculture... By faking the discovery, [the archeologist] was subverting the heroic image that the modern-day church has of its founders... To a large degree, he succeeded, as scholars so uniformly accepted these bizarre claims and integrated them into their understanding of medieval faith.”'' (https://www.apocryphicity.ca/2014/04/19 ... ew-source/)
(E) According to Andrew Criddle, in ''The Codex'' (published 1954 in a journal and separately in 1955), the scholar C.H. Roberts suggested that a very early manuscript of Mark played a central role in the beginning of Egyptian Christianity. A few years later in 1958, M. Smith made his alleged discovery of the Mar Saba Letter, which described Egyptian Christians as using "Secret Mark". Decades later in ''The Birth of the Codex'' (1983), Roberts largely retracted his theory of the early manuscript of Mark. But I don't think Roberts theorized that Mark had an earlier, quite different version of his gospel.
More direct potential sources, references, or parallels to the content in Secret Mark include:
(A) The canonical gospels' stories of Lazarus' raising, the rich young man, the shrouded youth in Gethsemane and at the tomb, and the Beloved Disciple. I understand that there is mystery with the stories of the shrouded youth and the Beloved Disciple, but I don't find them necessarily and unintentionally "incoherent" like the Wikipedia entry suggests. I think that gospel authors sometimes left elements of their story deliberately mysterious or unclear, like the story of the water carriers at Jerusalem's gates. So I don't find the seeming mystery in the canonical account as necessarily an indication of a secret version of Mark's gospel that cleared up those issues. John the evangelist is apparently the Beloved Disciple according to John 21. The robed youth in tomb whom the women see in Mark 16 certainly isn't the Beloved Disciple whom those women tell about the tomb angels in John 20. But the robed youth at the tomb appears to be the angel that the women meet in Matthew 28, and thus probably one of the tomb angels in Luke 26 and John 20. Based on the resemblance between the story of the tomb angel and the youth, I guess that they are the same person as the angel in Gethsemane and the youth who loses his robe there.
(B) According to Stephen Huller and some others, Irenaeus (late 2nd c.) knew of Secret Mark (http://stephanhuller.blogspot.com/2009/ ... nt-of.html) In his own book, Peter Jeffrey takes Irenaeus to mean that the Carpocratians had an alleged secret copy of Jesus' teachings, but Jeffrey(who rejects Secret Mark's authenticity) says:
(C) Morton Smith had written a 1949 article on Protestant and Catholic debates on whether Clement of Alexandria endorsed selective lying, and this relates to the Mar Saba letter's instructions to dishonestly (according to the Letter) deny Secret Mark's authenticity to gnostics.<<What no one in the twentieth century would have expected is the information that Clement’s church, too, had an alternate gospel, with additional material believed to be by the same Mark who wrote the original gospel.>>(p. 38)
(D) In The Clementine Recognitions and Homilies, Clement grabs Barnabas' hand, takes him to Clement's house, and Barnabas instructs him for days before leaving for Judea. There are some common elements with "Secret Mark" (http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopi ... 227#p95227). The author or forger of Secret Mark could have used this story in creating his passage for Mark 10.
(E) Nonnus of Panopolis (late 4th-5th c.) may have construed the Staphylus/Botrys episode based on something like Secret Mark, according to K. Spanoudakis, as Roger Viklund mentioned in the Wikipedia article's talk section.
(F) Y. Kuchinsky suggested that 2 fourteenth-century sources by Abu-'l-Barakat and a tenth-century writing by Macarius show knowledge of Secret Mark, as R. Viklund mentioned also.
(G) Kuchinsky claims the Middle English (1150-1470) Magdalene Gospel resembles Secret Mark. (https://web.archive.org/web/20071217185 ... /secmk.htm) Ben Smith notes:
I think that Morton Smith could have had an interest in peripheral renderings of stories like Lazarus' raising in the Magdalene gospel and could have used them to construct Secret Mark.<<The canonical version of John 11.3 [the story of Lazarus' raising] has nothing about mercy; in the secret gospel, however, the sister of the dead youth says: Υιε Δαβιδ, ελεησον με (son of David, have mercy on me). The Magdalene gospel (Pepys 2498, often called the Pepysian harmony) also has an appeal for mercy: ...wepeande and cryeande hym mercy. [T]he line is a straight copy of Mark 10.47-48 (and, if Smith was the forger, that is where he would have found the line) ...Both the Magdalene gospel and the secret gospel of Mark heighten the relationship between the deceased and Jesus, as compared with the canonical account in John 11.1-44. But this kind of parallel is gossamer. One of the intertextual connections either fabricated or exploited in the secret gospel of Mark is the link between the rich man (whom Jesus loved) in Mark 10.17-22 and Lazarus (whom Jesus loved) in John 11.1-44. The love of Jesus for these two men is almost certainly one of the main things that guided the course of this pericope in the first place. It is only natural that the secret gospel should have something to say about the love between the youth and Jesus. (http://www.textexcavation.com/kuchinskybrownsecmk.html)>>
(H) Shem Tov's version of Matthew (c.1385) has places that resemble passages from Secret Mark, as R. Viklund has mentioned.(https://rogerviklund.wordpress.com/2011 ... rn-forgery)
(I) Whereas the typical early Christian model for initiation seemed to be a catechumenate period, followed by water baptism, "Secret Mark" seems to present a motif where the young man is raised from the dead out of a tomb and then learns secret mysteries from Jesus. This motif reminds me of Freemasonry's ritual initiation, where the initiate is "raised a mason" out of a coffin and then given secret teachings. (See eg.: Death, Burial and Resurrection in the Masonic Lodge, http://www.emfj.org/dbr.htm)
(J) Peter <<Jeffery also detects slips, or deliberate insertions, that imply modern authorship. In his view the three features of Secret Mark's initiation rite--resurrection symbolism, a period of teaching followed by a night vigil, and the wearing of a white cloth--reflect the Anglican Paschal liturgy prior to the liturgical renewal movement of the 1960s.>>(http://dyneslines.blogspot.com/2008/01/ ... smith.html)
(K) Peter <<Jeffery finds that Clement's letter is riddled with allusions to Oscar Wilde's nineteenth-century play, Salome. In the play Salome does the "dance of the seven veils," which is echoed by Smith's Clement, who evokes "the truth hidden by seven veils.”>>(http://dyneslines.blogspot.com/2008/01/ ... smith.html)