Timo Paananen, “From Stalemate to Deadlock” on Secret Mark

Timo Paananen, administrator of the Salainen evankelista blog, has provided an overview of research on Secret Mark for the journal Currents in Biblical Research (see HERE for an abstract of the article). It is an excellent overview of recent research on the text (with a little on early currents also). What Paananen does best here is bring attention to the deplorable way that scholars of Secret Mark have engaged with one another over the text. However, he seems unable to resist poking a little fun at proponents of the forgery hypotheses by associating them with fringe scholarship. He says,

Scholars are, to my mind, all too willing to accept the notion that Clement’s Letter to Theodore is full of obscure ‘hidden clues’, illuminating the path to the solution of an ingenious textual puzzle. The old philosophical adage, ‘no difference without distinction’, is not firmly held here. It is perfectly understandable if biblical scholars are largely unaware of the
Shadow Academia, a category under which all sorts of pseudoscientific, pseudohistorical and fringe scholarship in the (paranoid) style of conspiracy theorizing is produced. Proponents of the hoax hypothesis should aim to argue why the particular clues Carlson and Watson have unearthedshould be taken any more seriously than similar clues by fringe scholars,
disclosing true identities of this and that author. Specifically, this would mean differentiating the hoax hypothesis from Barbara Thiering’s Jesus the Man (1992), Joseph Atwill’s satirical reading of the Gospels, Lena Einhorn’s theories that Jesus was also Paul, the various textual cluespointing to someone else as the true author of Shakespeare’s works, and even the claims that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by alook-alike, a notion that derives from various ‘hidden clues’ in Beatles’ album covers and song lyrics.

I happen to agree with Paananen on this point. Panaanen also does an excellent job of presenting Scott Brown's and Allan Pantuck's responses to Peter Jeffery's and Stephen Carlson's monographs. He notes that Brown's and Pantuck's critiques have not been given the attention that they deserve. And it is because of this oversight that survey articles like Paananen's (and like my own in the Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery collection) are still required. Scholars rushed to declare Carlson had proven Secret Mark was a forgery, and now I think they are reluctant to accept arguments to the contrary.

Paananen blogged on the article back in October and the post includes links to some responses. Keep in mind, that the article was written almost two years ago and does not include subsequent discussions on the, including the York Symposium.

For another recent survey of Secret Mark scholarship, see Robert Connor's online essay HERE.

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6 Responses to Timo Paananen, “From Stalemate to Deadlock” on Secret Mark

  1. I enjoyed reading Timo’s article, but if he seriously thinks that there is a comparison between the work of Carlson and Watson on the one hand, and the work of Barbara Thiering etc. on the other, I am disappointed.

  2. Tony Burke says:

    I think the comparison is warranted but only for the efforts at finding “clues” in Secret Mark to Smith’s identity as a forger. It seems that these, along with Jeffery’s double entendres, are the only evidence left for the forgery hypothesis. And if this is all you got, then you really are moving into “shadow academia.”

  3. Robert Mathiesen says:

    I found Carlson’s book extremely unsatisfactory. In it he argues in the style of a lawyer, even a prosecuting attorney, not as a dispassionate scholar. Such a style of argumentation produces convictions, not truth. And his knowledge of paleography in general, and Greek paleography in particular, is that of a dilettante.

  4. David Blocker says:

    The number of literary co incidences between the “Secret Mark” fragments and stories in the canonical gospels and in Hebrew Matthew make it very unlikely that Morton Smith forged the text. In retrospect it is obvious he made an important discovery and did not fully understand its significance.

    A link to an essay showing the literary parallels between “Secret Mark” and other texts is shown below. There are links to downloadable PDF tables which set forth the parallel texts.


  5. David Blocker says:

    Here are essays by another writer showing additional parallels between the “Secret Mark” fragment and other texts including text related to the Diatessaron. One thing that is certain is that the “Secret Mark” fragment is related to texts that Morton Smith, working in the 1950’s, would not have been aware of. It is unlikely that Morton Smith was a genius forger who was a generation ahead of his era’s scholarship, who was able to mimic Clement’s writing style, produce a text pastiche referring to texts that were not well known in his era and set it down in an authentic 18th c. handwriting style.
    The simpler conclusion is that “Secret Mark” is authentic and belongs to a rather large family of related texts.


  6. Tony Burke says:

    Thanks for passing these links along David.

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