Mark’s Other Gospel
Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery
Table of contents
Did the evangelist Mark write two versions of his gospel? According to a letter ascribed to Clement of Alexandria, Mark created a second, more spiritual edition of his gospel for theologically advanced Christians in Alexandria. Clement’s letter contains two excerpts from this lost gospel, including a remarkably different account of the raising of Lazarus.
Forty-five years of cursory investigation have yielded five mutually exclusive paradigms, abundant confusion, and rumours of forgery. Strangely, one of the few things upon which most investigators agree is that the letter’s own explanation of the origin and purpose of this longer gospel need not be taken seriously.
Mark’s Other Gospel: Rethinking Morton Smith’s Controversial Discovery calls this pervasive bias into question. After thoroughly critiquing the five main paradigms, Scott G. Brown demonstrates that the gospel excerpts not only sound like Mark, but also employ Mark’s distinctive literary techniques, deepening this gospels theology and elucidating puzzling aspects of its narrative. This mystic gospel represents Mark’s own response to the Alexandrian predilection to discover the essential truths of a philosophy beneath the literal level of revered texts.
"Mark's Other Gospel by Scott Brown critically examines not only the controversy surrounding Smith's find, but the excerpts themselves and, as such, is a necessary addition to early Christian studies. ... The work is thorough and well written in spite of the complexity of the subject matter. In the least, Mark's Other Gospel demands that scholars take the Letter to Theodore and its 15 additional Markan verses seriously. At best, Brown demonstrates that a slightly different version of the Gospel of Mark was used amongst those few Alexandrians who were mature in their faith. "- Dilys Patterson, Studies in Religion, 36/2, 2007
"Scott G. Brown's fine book . .. makes a real contribution to scholarship. First he provides a transcript of the Greek text and an English translation of bothe Clement's 'Letter to Theodore' and citations of the gragments of the 'Longer Gospel of Mark. ' Then, Brown offers a thorough, balanced, level-headed, and much-needed rethinking of the document, treating the history of scholarly assessments of the text, including whether or not Clement's letter and the gospel fragments are authentic or a forgery (ancient or modern); and if the former, whether these fragments constitute an `apocryphal' pastiche of the canonical gospels, a pre-canoncical version of Mark, a 'secret' gnostic gospel, a catechetical supplement for baptism, or (as Brown argues) a longer, esoteric version of Mark's Gospel. ... Mark's Other Gospel is a valuable literary and theological study of a text often rejected and long neglected by scholarship. By presenting a sobering critique of how biblical scholarship tends to treat Christian origins, as well as a compelling analysis of how those discoveries might enable us to think Christian origins differently, Brown has given us a no-nonsense example of how we might begin to describe the experimental character of the first chapters of Christian history. For that we should all be grateful. "- Ron Cameron, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2005, Volume 76, number 1, Winter 2007
"Brown offers a thorough, dispassionate, and meticulously researched defence of the likely authenticity of the Clement of Alexander letter. At a minimum, Brown makes a persuasive case that—scholarly bombast aside—forgery has not been proven. "- Ian Hunter
"Brown examines meticulously and even-handedly the scholarly controversy which followed Smith's announcement of this discovery, and his key conclusions are worth noting with care. ...This book will prove invaluable, particularly to readers who do not have access to the information on which to assess one of the more unseemly scholarly controversies of recent decades. Brown's reconstruction of the history behind the longer version of Mark will merit serious engagement in scholarship. "- Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 28.5, 2006
"This work . .. provides a sustained reading of LGM [Longer Mark] that is, especially in comparison to the usual tone of work on this topic, innovative and intriguing, with a noticeable lack of hyperbole. This analysis aside, many (if not most) readers will find their attention drawn chiefly to the debate over the authenticity of the Letter to Theodore, and this section of the book deserves attention for several reasons. Regardless of whether Carlson or Brown makes the most compelling case, the issue often biols down to discussions of whether Morton Smith was `the sort of person' to fabricate material (both in terms of capability and character). In this regard, Brown's use of Internet blogs, e-mail exchanges and the curious sort of interplay between personal and academic materials such as a debate requires demonstrates the liminal nature of scholarly argumentation as to 'character. ' Scholarly credibility is often a fuzzier issue than we scholars admit, and when Brown notes that Jacob Neusner's views about Smith, oft-quoted in this debate, are not those of a dispassionate observer who is himself above criticism (pp. 38-48), the interplay of personality and scholarship is at its most interesting. The role of the academic rumour-mill (with its attendant jealousies and conflicts of personalities) is rarely so openly discussed, and it may be that the entire debate over LGM will serve to shed light on this much-ignored side of scholarship, which is a discussion worth having aside from the issue of Smith's controversial discovery. "- Matthew W. Mitchell, Toronto Journal of Theology, 22:2, Fall 2006
"An important contribution to understanding early Christian gospel literature. "- International Review of Biblical Studies
"Ever since Morton Smith's discovery at Mar Saba of a letter by Clement of Alexandria containing fragments of a longer version of Mark, 'Secret Mark' has been surrounded by a cloud of controversy and a spate of outlandish and scurrilous accusations by detractors of Smith and the gospel. Brown's monograph combines the first detailed treatment of the history of the discovery with an outstandingly careful and persuasive analysis of the Clementine letter and the gospel fragments it contains. He lifts the discussion of 'Longer Mark' from the mire of innuendo and pseudo-scholarly opinion and sets it on the footing of serious and balanced discussion, showing that there are good reasons both to suppose that the Clementine letter is genuine and to conclude that the gospel fragments are Markan. Mark's Other Gospel is not only important for being the first full-length scholarly treatment on 'Longer Mark'; it also provides a compelling analysis of how modern scholarship on Christian origins treats discoveries that have the potential to upset the commonly accepted views of gospel origins. "- John S. Kloppenborg, University of Toronto