"Smith's Last Laugh" (Gospel Hoax, continued)
As an afterthought to this morning's review, there's a particular paragraph from Carlson's book mentioning "Smith's last laugh from the grave". I feel for the scholars who had faith in Morton Smith's character, especially those who dedicated careers defending the authenticity of Secret Mark. Scott Brown in particular comes to mind. Mark's Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith's Controversial Discovery, which I reviewed here on the Crosstalk mailing list, has barely shown its front cover to the world before Gospel Hoax renders it obsolete next month.
In a Maclean's article, Brown states:
"To study Secret Mark I had to study Smith for 10 years. I've never found anything dishonest in him, and I think I would have after that long."Others knew Smith as someone contemptuous of his colleagues, an irreverant scholar who enjoyed cutting into the pious whenever he could. Bart Ehrman describes him thus:
"One of the truly brilliant scholars of ancient Christianity in the late twentieth century: massively erudite, enormously well-read, and, to put it bluntly, an intellectual cut above most of the academics he had to contend with. And he knew it. Known for his rapier wit, his general unwillingness to suffer fools gladly, and an occasional mean streak, Morton Smith was not someone to cross swords with." (Lost Christianities, p 70).Stephen Carlson concludes in chapter six:
"If Smith was motivated partly by malice against his opponents, it is ironic that exposure of Smith's hoax may end up hurting mainly those who trusted him...the people whose work will be called into question are those who trusted Smith but ignored the red flags surrounding Secret Mark. But scholarship is ultimately about truth, not about faith in others. Come to think of it, that is what Smith spent his career trying to teach. Smith's last laugh from the grave is also his last lesson." (Galley for Gospel Hoax, p 86)A sobering lesson at that.