YCAS 2015 Profiles 10: Scott Brown

This is the tenth in a series of profiles of the presenters at the upcoming 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium to be held September 25-26 at York University in Toronto. Only a few weeks away! Remember, if you register for the symposium, you will receive drafts of the papers in advance (and many of them are available now), thus enabling you to participate more fully in the discussions that follow. For registration information, visit the YCAS 2015 web site (HERE).

Scott Brown is a recent addition to the program. Annette Yoshiko Reed had to pull out of the symposium and Scott graciously accepted out invitation to take her place. Scott Brown HeadshotScott studied both psychology and religion at the University of Toronto, where he focused on early Christian gospels and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Secret Gospel of Mark. He has since published a book (Mark’s Other Gospel) and sixteen papers on this subject, as well as the student resource A Guide to Writing Academic Essays in Religious Studies (London: Continuum, 2008). His areas of research include the literary interrelationships among the gospels, Bethany beyond the Jordan, ritual impurity, narrative criticism, Markan literary techniques, Philo of Alexandria, early Christian mysticism, and questioned document examination. At this 2015 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium he will present the sequel to the paper that he presented during the inaugural 2011 symposium dedicated to the debate on Secret Mark.

“Behind the Seven Veils, II: Assessing Clement of Alexandria’s Knowledge of the Mystic Gospel of Mark”

We first learned of a letter of Clement of Alexandria “to Theodore” and of the “mystic” Gospel of Mark that it quotes in 1958, when Morton Smith catalogued a manuscript (Mar Saba 65) that constitutes the only extant evidence for both these works. The lack of external corroboration for this gospel has made the spectre of forgery particularly hard to dispel. Fortunately, indirect evidence bearing on Clement’s knowledge of this gospel exists but has been mostly overlooked. Given the letter’s premise that the gospel pericope which it quotes has a “true interpretation” of a mystical (i.e., allegorical) nature, we might expect that aspects of this interpretation would appear in Clement’s undisputed writings in the various places where he expounds equivalent phrases (e.g., “for he had many possessions” in Mark 10:22; “the mystery of the kingdom of God” in Mark 4:11) and themes (e.g., Jesus raising a person from the dead, a period of seven days, wearing a single linen garment) in other texts. The present paper asks, what would happen if we apply those allegorical expositions of other texts to the mystic gospel’s story about Jesus and the young man? Certainly if the letter isn’t by Clement, and he did not actually know this gospel story, we wouldn’t expect these scattered expositions to make much sense when brought together, and we most certainly wouldn’t expect them to combine into a consistent allegorical interpretation that could constitute the “true interpretation” promised at the point where the letter breaks off. Yet that is precisely what happens. The conspicuous parallels in Clement’s expositions of other texts all concern aspects of his path to perfection through the church, and they combine in their proper order and with remarkable detail to represent Jesus leading the young man through this entire progression. Hence we can conclude that he indeed knew this gospel and wrote this letter.

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