And after six days Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes 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.
The second excerpt is very brief and was inserted in Mark Clement says that "after the words, 'And he comes into Jericho' [and before 'and as he went out of 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. Clement continues: "But the many other things about which you wrote both seem to be and are falsifications. These two excerpts comprise the entirety of the Secret Gospel material.
No separate text of the secret gospel is known to survive, and it is not referred to in any other ancient source. Among scholars, there is no consensus opinion on the authenticity of the letter,    not least because the manuscript's ink has never been tested. He indicated that the two quotations go back to an original Aramaic version of Mark, which served as a source for both the canonical Mark and the Gospel of John.
In the first phase, the letter was thought to be genuine, while Secret Mark often was regarded as a typical apocryphal second-century gospel sprung from the canonical traditions.
Bruce , who saw the story of the young man of Bethany clumsily based on the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Thus, he saw the Secret Mark narrative as derivative and denied that it could be either the source of the story of Lazarus or an independent parallel. Brown came to the conclusion that the author of Secret Mark "may well have drawn upon" the Gospel of John, "at least from memory". Skehan supported this view, calling the reliance on John "unmistakable". Grant thought that Smith definitely had proved that the letter was written by Clement,  but found in Secret Mark elements from each of the four canonical gospels, [j]  and arrived at the conclusion that it was written after the first century.
Wright wrote in that most scholars who accept the text as genuine see in the Secret Gospel of Mark "a considerably later adaptation of Mark in a decidedly gnostic direction. However, approximately the same number of scholars at least 25 did not consider Secret Mark to be "a worthless patchwork fabrication" but saw instead a healing story quite like other miracle stories in the Synoptic Gospels ; a story that progressed smoothly without any obvious rough connections and inconsistencies as is found in the corresponding story of the raising of Lazarus in the Gospel of John.
Like Smith, they mostly thought that the story was based on oral tradition , although they generally rejected his idea of an Aramaic proto-gospel. The first scholar to publicly question the letter's authenticity was Quentin Quesnell — in Quesnell and others have argued that this fact supports the supposition that the book never was part of the Mar Saba library,  but was brought there from outside, by for example Smith, with the text already inscribed.
Smith found almost books at his stay, [k]  so the list was far from complete  and the silence from incomplete catalogues cannot be used as arguments against the existence of a book at the time the catalogue was made, Smith argued.
Although Quesnell did not accuse Morton Smith of having forged the letter, his "hypothetical forger matched Smith's apparent ability, opportunity, and motivation," and readers of the article, as well as Smith himself, saw it as an accusation that Smith was the culprit.
Charles E. Murgia followed Quesnell's allegations of forgery with further arguments,  such as calling attention to the fact that the manuscript has no serious scribal errors, as one would expect of an ancient text copied many times,    and by suggesting that the text of Clement had been designed as a sphragis , a "seal of authenticity", to answer questions from the readers why Secret Mark was never heard of before.
Brown advocates that Theodore instead is told to assure that the adulterated or forged Carpocratian gospel was not written by Mark, which, according to Brown, would be at least a half-truth and also something Clement could have said for the benefit of the church.
Smith gave some thought to Murgia's arguments but later dismissed them as being based on a misreading,  and he thought Murgia "fell into a few factual errors". Smith speculated that a letter of Clement could partly have survived the fire, and a monk could have copied it into the endpapers of the monastery's edition of the letters of Ignatius [b] in order to preserve it.
Murgia anyway ruled out the possibility that Smith could have forged the letter as, according to him, Smith's knowledge of Greek was insufficient and nothing in his book indicated a fraud. Morton Smith objected to insinuations that he would have forged the letter by, for example, calling Quesnell's article  an attack. Morton Smith summarized the situation in a article. He meant that "most scholars would attribute the letter to Clement" and that no strong argument against it had been presented.
After Smith's summary of the situation, other scholars did support Secret Markan priority. The allegations against Smith for having forged the Mar Saba manuscript became even more pronounced after his death in Most scholars who have " studied the letter and written on the subject " assume the letter was written by Clement.
In , Andrew H. In , Philip Jenkins drew attention to a novel by James H. Hunter entitled The Mystery of Mar Saba , which first appeared in and was popular at the time. Price ,  Francis Watson  and Craig A. Evans  developed the theory that Morton Smith would have been inspired by this novel to forge the letter.
This assumption has been contested by, among others, Scott G. Brown, who writes that apart from "a scholar discovering a previously unknown ancient Christian manuscript at Mar Saba, there are few parallels"  [t] — and in a rebuttal to Evans, he and Allan J. Pantuck find the alleged parallel between the Scotland Yard detective Lord Moreton's last name and Morton Smith's first name puzzling, since Morton Smith got his name long before the novel was written. Pantuck thinks they are too generic or too artful to be persuasive.
In , John Dart proposed a complex theory of 'chiasms' or ' chiasmus ' running through the Gospel of Mark — a type of literary device he finds in the text.
The fact that, for many years, no other scholars besides Smith were known to have seen the manuscript contributed to the suspicions of forgery. Brown noted that he was in no position to do so. In Charles Hedrick expressed frustration over the stalemate in the academy over the text's authenticity,  even though the Clementine scholars in the main had accepted the authenticity of the letter.
The two camps could be illustrated, on the one hand by Larry Hurtado , who thinks it is "inadvisable to rest too much on Secret Mark" as the letter "that quotes it might be a forgery" and even if it is genuine, Secret Mark "may be at most an ancient but secondary edition of Mark produced in the second century by some group seeking to promote its own esoteric interests",  and by Francis Watson , who hopes and expects that Secret Mark will be increasingly ignored by scholars to avoid "that their work will be corrupted by association with it".
Other authors, like an Origenist monk in the early fifth century, have also been proposed for the letter. The debate intensified with the publication of three new books. Brown's revised doctoral dissertation Mark's Other Gospel from ,   was the first monograph that dealt only with Secret Mark since Smith's books in Carlson published The Gospel Hoax  in which he spells out his case that Morton Smith, himself, was both the author and the scribe of the Mar Saba manuscript.
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