It should be noted that Morton Smith is a Christian, and typical of
them, even in their critical scholarship, they are committed to certain conclusion that the evidence fails to uphold. They invariable fail to address several compelling criticisms of the New and Old Testaments. They assume certain truths, which upon scrutiny aren’t truths. In the case of Morton Smith, he holds that there is an historical Jesus, a viewpoint that has been shown
to be without merit by the German School of biblical
scholars at the beginning of the 20th century and improved upon by later scholars.
Scholars have long wondered at a curious passage in the canonical Gospel of Mark (undisputedly the oldest
of the canonical gospels) which seems to hint that a detail or two might have been left out:
“Then they came to Jericho.
As he was leaving Jericho with his disciples…” (Mark 10:46). But what happened in Jericho on Jesus'
whistle-stop tour of the provinces? Did Jesus simply pass through and then leave
without doing or saying anything to anyone? If the visit was so irrelevant to Jesus' mission, why is it even mentioned? The gap suggests a mission portion of Mark’s Gospel. The Letter—supplied below--of Clement’s, who had access to the complete version of Mark’s
gospel, places the events in Jericho.
Both what is missing and why is supplied by Morton Smith, the Columbia University professor scholar whose
1958 research expedition culminated in the discovery of a copy of a letter in the 1646 edition of letters of Ignatius of Antioch
(a 2nd century church writer) at the monastery of Mar Saba, twelve miles south of Jerusalem. The letter consists of 3 pages of Greek manuscript bound in as end-papers.
This letter contains quotes from what Saint Clement of Alexandria (c.156-211) refers to as “The
Secret Gospel of Mark.” Professor Smith writes, “Based on this
letter we can conclude that “The Secret Gospel of Mark” was the older and more complete, and the version we have
is an edited version with the troubling passages left out by the Church fathers. The
portions supplied by Clement in this letter found by Professor Morton Smith fill in the gap at Mark 10:46.
Morton Smith published his findings in 1973 in two different books:
one was a rigorously academic volume from Harvard entitled Clement of Alexandria
and a Secret Gospel of Mark, while the second was a popular explanation The Secret
Gospel. It is the latter which I have read.
Bishop Clement of Alexandria has 3 surviving books Exhortation to the Greeks, The Insructor, and the Miscellanies, and
several fragments and lesser works. One is a letter to a disciple named Theodore
who had asked for advice regarding the Caprocratians, (a Gnostic Christian sect) use of the "Secret Gospel of Mark." Clement not only confirmed the existence and authority of "Secret Mark" in his reply,
but actually denounced Carpocrates for using black magic to steal a copy "Secret Mark" from the church library!
So scandalous was the Carpocratian "The Secret Gospel of Mark" that Clement advised Theodore never to admit
that Mark even wrote it: "You did well in silencing the unspeakable teachings
of the Carpocratians. For... priding themselves in knowledge, as they say,
"of the deep things of Satan," they do not know that they are casting themselves away into "the nether world of darkness"...
For even if they should say something true, one who loves the truth should not, even so, agree with them....
“Now of the things they keep saying about the divinely inspired Gospel of Mark... even if they do
contain some true elements, [these] are not reported truly....
“As for Mark then, during Peter's stay in Rome [Mark] wrote an account of the Lord's doings, not,
however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing
the faith of those who were instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing
both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes
for progress towards knowledge. Thus he composed a more spiritual gospel for
the use of those who were being perfected. Nevertheless, he yet did not divulge
the things not to be uttered, nor did he write down the hierophantic teaching of the Lord… [and] he left his composition
in the church in... Alexandria, where it is... most carefully guarded, being
read only by those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.
“But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates... using
deceitful arts, so enslaved a certain presbyter in the church that he got from a copy of the secret gospel, which he interpreted
according to his blasphemous and carnal doctrine...
“To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way... [or] even concede that the secret
gospel is by Mark... but deny it on oath. For, 'Not all true things are to be said to all men..."
This letter is strong evidence that the Secret Gospel of Mark was in fact the complete version of Mark,
and what we have is the edited version by the Church fathers. Barnstone at 340
lists as being visible signs of this editing process Mark 4:ll; 9:25-27; 10:21, 32,38-39; 12:32-34; 14:51-52. What, then, were these "true things" that the Church fathers hoped to hide from the
untutored eyes of the average Christian? What was the unspeakable?
St. Clement quotes from this complete, "Secret” Gospel of Mark" at length towards the end of his
letter. Clement in the last third of his letter to Theodore wrote: “To you, therefore I shall not hesitate to answer the questions you have asked refuting the falsifications
by the very words of the [Secret] Gospel” (Barnstone 342). "And they come into Bethany. And a certain
woman whose brother had died was there. And she prostrated herself before Jesus
and says to him, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ But the disciples rebuked her.
And Jesus, being angered, went off with her unto the garden where the tomb was, and straightway a great cry was heard
from the tomb. And going near, Jesus rolled away the stone from the door of the
tomb. And straightway, going in where the youth was, he stretched forth his hand
and raised him, seizing his hand. But the youth, looking upon him, loved him
and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he
was rich. And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth came to him, wearing a linen cloth
over his naked body. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And
thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan."
“After these words follows the text, “And James and John come to him,” and all that section. But “naked man with naked man,” and the other things about
which you wrote, are not found.
“And after the words, ‘And he comes into Jericho,’ the
secret Gospel adds only, ‘And the sister of the youth whom Jesus loved, and his mother and Salome
were there, and Jesus did not receive them. But many other things about which
you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications.
“Now the true explanation and that which accords with the true philosophy. “
This passage quoted by Clement from the Gospel, could be interpreted as an account of a baptism preformed
by Jesus on this young lad—and some do—but for 3 facts. One that
Clement and the Church fathers not only suppressed the passage but found it “scandalous.” Second, the plain meaning of the words “naked man with naked man” and “whom
Jesus loved” support the conclusion that Sexual union with a man as part of the sacrament was practiced. Third, that it was a practice of some Christian sects for (like in Tantra Yoga) to engage in sexual intercourse
as part of a union with God. Such was said of some Christian communities. There are passages in the Pauline Epistles which admonishing certain unnamed sexual
practices and there is a letter from a Roman physician describing in detail this practice.
Morton Smith, the discoverer of the letter writes: “Freedom from
the [Mosaic] law may have resulted in completion of the spiritual union by physical union. This certainly occurred in many
forms of Gnostic Christianity; how early it began there is no telling” (Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel, p. 94, The
Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel according to Mark. New York: Harper &
Row, 1973). From the tone of the letter of Clement, the fact that our present
Gospel of Mark is incomplete in a way that indicates deliberate suppression of the passage, from the quoted passages of in
the letter, and from the practices of early Christian communities it is quite reasonable to conclude that the Secret Gospel.
Mark described the sexual union of Jesus with a young disciple.
This portrayal of the Messiah Jesus as partaking in sexual union fits well with the view of Jesus as a
prophet, like Mohammed, Elijah, and others. Much has been written on the meaning
of the Messiah (“anointed leader”) and the meaning of the “Son of God” needs to be set in its proper
context. A number of heroes were the son of god, including Heracles, Helen, and
more recently, it was widely believed that Philip of Macedonia was not the real son of Alexander, but rather a god. Mark was first, his Gospel was incorporated with aggrandizements, and revisions by Matthew and Luke. Mark saw Christ as a mortal unto whom the spirit of god has entered when he was baptized. If he was a god or part of Yahweh (as is currently maintained) then God would
not need to inform his son that he is his son, unless “son of God” meant something like chosen one—a position held by the Gnostic
Christians. “Son of God, most scholars agree, is an ambiguous title at
best, so too, is lord from the Aramaic mare, which could be interpreted in a spectrum of ways from the mundane
“sir” to the divine “lord.” As a mortal, having intercourse with women would be fitting, and to be celibate
would be very abnormal. Having sex with a young man, in the Hellenized world
also was quite unexceptional.
Would it be very abnormal for Jesus to take a young man and in the religious initiation have sex with him? The Greeks and Romans both approved such if done with the spirit of a mentor. Bisexuality was the norm. Three centuries
of Greek and Roman domination had its effects. Mark had written in his fiction
on the life of Jesus things that were deemed proper in the Hellenized world? Could not Mark, who
was most certainly not Mark of the disciples[i], be Hellenized? “Modern research
often proposes as the author an unknown Hellenistic Jewish Christian, possibly in Syria and perhaps
shortly after the year 70.” Clement of Alexandria in his letter
acknowledges a complete and suppressed original edition of Mark’s Gospel, a copy in the Church’s library in Alexandria. Thus the most consistent explanation of the missing passages including the one concerning Jericho is that
the Church Counsel was not as Hellenized as Mark, and that they upheld the Hebraic injunction against Greek love.
[i] Clement in his letter has as the source for his Gospel, Peter the disciple.