Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Forgery, Fraud and the Gospels.

Imagine that a scholar claimed to have discovered an ancient text suggesting that Jesus engaged in homosexual rituals with his followers. You'd probably think that it was another academic hatchett job against orthodox Christianity.

But there was such a scholar named Morton Smith and he made such a claim and that claim went essentially unchallenged during his lifetime, because of his eminence in the field.

As weird as the claim is, weirder still is the fact that Smith's claim was based on a photocopy of a page of a 17th Century book allegedly containing a handwritten copy of a Second Century letter purportedly summarizing the "Secret Gospel of Mark."

By the way, Smith - whose discovery uniquely depicts a homosexual Jesus - was himself an open homosexual.

Also, the original text has never been seen by anyone other than Smith.

It is a sad commentary on the incestuous nature of scholarship that Smith's claim - which should have been rejected until some corroboration was provided - went essentially unchallenged until a few crack appeared in the wall after his death. But you can still read serious commentaries about the meaning of "Secret Mark" in popular works today.

In any event, attorney and amateur historian Stephen Carlson has published the "Gospel Hoax" that applies his legal training to what is essentially an issue of fraud. This book looks like it would be a good read, and would certainly inolve more of a mystery than "The Da Vinci Code."

Here is a review of Carlson's book, which I particularly like because it begins with an apt passage from Roger Zelazny's "Lord of Light."

Here is Carlson's blog.

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