Prof. James Tabor is a scholar whose work on Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity I have a lot of respect for. His teacher, in turn, was Morton Smith, who attracted a storm of controversy in his life because of his discovery of “Secret Mark”, quoted in a previously unknown letter by the early 3rd Century Church Father Clement of Alexandria. James Tabor discusses this episode in his mentor’s life here… Vindicating Morton Smith …which is worth a read. His blog post was sparked by a very even-handed treatment of the controversy in the latest Biblical Archeology Review (Nov/Dec 2009)… Secret Mark: An Amazing Discovery …and a previous Tabor Blog piece on the latest status of the debate over “Secret Mark”. The previous Tabor-blog piece references this
article by Anthony Grafton which discusses Gershon Scholem’s influence on Morton Smith and their correspondance which makes the ‘forgery’ case more unlikely for any fair-minded observer.
So what of the offending piece itself? The indispensable Early Christian Writings website discusses “Secret Mark” in detail and provides a translation of Clement’s putative letter in which the contentious text is quoted. In the end one either follows the data on trust or retreats into utter scepticism. There is no slam-dunk argument or clue in this case.
A short summary of arguments in favour of authenticity
Book blurb on “Secret Mark” …and a not so friendly review.
An interesting thesis… Identification of the Bethany Youth in the Secret Gospel of Mark with other Figures Found in Mark and John
…a surprising answer, but not a unique conclusion as to a certain mysterious disciple.