"The Secret Gospel of Mark"


The Secret Gospel of Mark continues to be in the news, with the imminent departure of Sue Laden and Herschel Shanks to Egypt to consult with handwriting experts about the possibility that Prof. Morton Smith forged the letter from Clement of Alexandria that quotes from, and denounces the "Secret Gospel of Mark".


Morton Smith claimed the have discovered the letter in the binding of a book while he was cataloging documents at the monastery of Mar Sabah.  The letter, which has been described as plausible by experts on Clement, accuses the Carpocratians of having added spurious material toe the Secret Gospel.  The letter in fact talks of an original gospel by Mark, while in Rome with Peter, and states that Mark then traveled to Alexandria to produce an expanded version, and then a "secret version" of the gospel.  Clement cites parts of the Carpocratian version, which is our only source for this material.


The idea that gospels were produced by compilation is confirmed by scripture, particularly the opening of Luke's gospel. Evangelicals such as F.F. Bruce follow Clement’s view that the original gospel was subject to amendment by various parties . It is, of course, commonplace that Matthew and Luke have material common with Mark, and is commonly accepted that they were based on Mark, with the addition of such sources as “Q”.   Smith reverses this position, and sees canonical Mark as the result of censorship by what became orthodox Christianity. His book “The Secret Gospel of Mark” is largely about his view that magic played a role in the early church, and this is developed further in his book “Jesus the Magician”.