Is Anything from Morton Smith Credible?

Okay, I’ve overcome my fear of Bultmann – don’t like his conclusions always – but no longer fear him. But as I was reading a book, yes, a book, I came across a mention and a quote from Smith used to support the author’s own conclusions.

Morton Smith ‘discovered’ a letter from Clement of Alexandria which is called ‘The Secret Gospel of Mark.’ You can read the letter, in full, here. Supposedly, it shows a very controversial passage for the ‘real believers.’ This was not out of Clement belief system, that some believers were more spiritual than others:

To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after ,”And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem,” and what follows, until “After three days he shall arise,” the secret Gospel brings the following material word for word:

“And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ But the disciples rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard from the tomb. And going near Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the tomb. And straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

After these words follows the text, “And James and John come to him,” and all that section. But “naked man with naked man,” and the other things about which you wrote, are not found.

And after the words, “And he comes into Jericho,” the secret Gospel adds only,

And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved and his mother and Salome were there, and Jesus did not receive them.

My question is, due to the controversial nature of this, especially given the fact that it was manufactured, does this discredit the rest of Smith’s work? Can he rightly be used modern research?

You Might Also Like

9 Replies to “Is Anything from Morton Smith Credible?”

  1. he was a doofus. truly. his gay jesus who smoked mushrooms with his disciples was nothing but smith projecting himself on the image of jesus. or as we say in historical jesus studies, he looked down the well and saw himself. and then said, look, it’s jesus.

    no, smith was a jerk. and a liar.

  2. This is an interesting question… however, the identification of the letter and its quotations as forgeries created by Smith is by no means a scholarly consensus. In my experience, most biblical scholars are inclined towards forgery, while most patristic scholars favor authenticity.

    Personally, I’m not convinced that Smith had the capability to produce such a convincing fake. I don’t think any of the scholars I’ve worked with–and I’ve worked with some great ones–could have done it.

    1. It is clearly within the realm of Clement to allow for secret gospels or secret anything. He was thoroughly Gnostic in this regard; however, regarding the ability create fakes of this capacity, I believe that it could have been done.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.