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Bibliography on the Secret Gospel of Mark

I recently joined the North American Society for the Study of Christian Apocryphal Literature (NASSCAL). The society has created a comprehensive bibliographic resource called E-Clavis: Christian Apocrypha for the academic study of this literature. It is a collection of Gospels, narratives about the Apostles, letters, theological treatises, and apocalypses that are included under the somewhat pejorative title “Apocrypha” (meaning “hidden books”). My contribution is to provide a summary and comprehensive bibliography and online resources for the Secret Gospel of Mark. If you read the description and follow the links, you will get an idea about the circumstances surrounding Morton Smith’s discovery of Clement’s letter to Theodore about a mystical Gospel of Mark in 1958, the contents of the letter, and the subsequent controversy over whether it is an ancient text or a modern forgery. My slight leaning is towards the authenticity of this text, or at least think that the burden of proof needs to be higher before convicting the late Smith of forgery. I am aware that there is a problem of provenance – we do not have a manuscript but only a text copied out onto the back pages of a printed edition of Ignatius’s epistles in an eighteenth century Greek hand – and it is precisely the issue of provenance that finally exposed the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” as a forgery in Ariel Sabar’s piece for the Atlantic. Mark Goodacre has a roundup of the latest posts on the latter text and it does seem to me that the evidence tipped towards forgery when it was discovered that the forger imitated Michael W. Grondin’s interlinear on the Gospel of Thomas. I do not think there has been a similar “smoking gun” in the debate over the authenticity of the letter to Theodore on either side and there may be ways it fits into our other evidence for the reception of Mark’s Gospel in second century Alexandria.

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