Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maurice Casey on Morton Smith

At the end of an excellent treatment of Jesus' healings and exorcisms, Maurice Casey considers Morton Smith's Jesus the Magician, concluding that
"Smith has completely misrepresented the cultural worlds of Jesus and the synoptic Gospels. His accusation that Jesus was a magician appears to be due to malicious hostility to Christianity. His misrepresentation of primary sources is so gross as to be virtually fraudulent. This should be borne in mind when considering The Secret Gospel of Mark..." p 278)
Casey then later returns to Secret Mark in an appendix, underscoring Smith's disingenuous claims about the document he supposedly discovered: the rite of homoerotic sex "simply completes an exercise in sensationalist falsehood... nothing resembling the nocturnal initiation into mysteries described by Smith is known until more than a century after Jesus' death" (p 541); that the text of canonical Mark at 10:46 makes perfectly good sense contra Smith's claims (pp 541-542); and indeed "Smith's handling of supposedly primary source material, whether genuine or forged, is fraudulent from beginning to end" (pp 542-543). But in fact Smith did forge Secret Mark (p 543), and he "should have never been believed by anyone" (ibid). Casey then cites Stephen Carlson and Peter Jeffery, not "to imply that all their arguments are convincing, but that those of their arguments which are convincing, taken together with my comments here, and on Jesus the Magician, together form an overwhelming argument of cumulative weight" (p 543, n. 57).

I'd like to know which of Carlson's and Jeffery's arguments Casey finds unconvincing, but at least this new, solid work on the historical Jesus recognizes Secret Mark for what it is.


Blogger Timo S. Paananen said...

I'm genuinely wondering why the model has come down to this: 1) cite Carlson, 2) cite Jeffery, 3) add a few original thoughts, and 4) conclude that the case is closed.

I would think that under normal circumstances, if for nothing else than for basic respect for one's colleagues, this would have to be expanded with 5) some scholars (A and B, for instance) are not convinced, but 6) their arguments are problematic for the reasons X, Y, and Z.

In other words, isn't Casey (and numerous others) practicing a same kind of 'misrepresentation of primary sources' Morton Smith is often accused of? If leaving out 5 & 6 is a conscious choice i.e. they are not worth a mention, shouldn't such judgment be laid down explicitly? And if leaving out 5 & 6 is due to not knowing that they exist... well, I don't know. Can't think of other reasons for omitting 5 & 6.

Blogger Stephan Huller said...

I got into a lot of trouble with certain people for publishing an email which made absolutely clear that Casey does NOT think the case for forgery has been established. But then again who cares about the truth unless it serves your agenda ...

Blogger Stephan Huller said...

I have been sitting on an interview I arranged between Professor Charlie Hedrick and Agamemnon Tselikas a respected Greek paleographer on the question of the authenticity of the Mar Saba document. It is now published at my blog

Hope you and your readers might want to check it out. Dr. Tselikas will be publishing an article on the same subject for BAR next year referencing the same material.


Stephan Huller

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Thanks for mentioning this, Stephan.


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