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The Lost Gospel Of Mark

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Any religion, as it exists today, is a product of development both in ritual and text. Within each, there is a canonized set of books that serves as historical evidence of its development and a basis for observance. In Judaism, the Old Testament is its canon, whereas in Christianity, the New Testament was added to create the Bible in its entirety. This collection of books was chosen by the early creators of the religion in order to establish an image of the early religion in the minds of followers for generations to come. The works chosen are supposed to be believed to be the only evidence of early Christianity. However, there are opinions that those responsible for collecting texts for the New Testament excluded other historical works that interfered with the preconceived notions of the religion. Those who support this idea might cite the discoveries of Morton Smith, which he documented in Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark . Smith later wrote another version of the book called The Secret Gospel in order to present his findings in a manner that is more understandable for the average reader. By examining the latter of these books, one can many interesting points about early Christianity. However, during this examination, it is necessary to realize that the conclusion of these books should not be taken at face value just because they are published. There are certain procedures which must be followed to validate these works. First, what exactly was found, and how was it found? Secondly, how were these findings authenticated? Lastly, if these findings were proven authentic, what can they reveal about early and modern Christianity? After these steps are taken, there is much information that can be learned.

In The Secret Gospel, Smith maps outs the details of his journey, what he found, and how he examined the findings. He begins telling about his first visit to Jerusalem at the age of 26 in 1941 (p.1). Smith was staying in Jerusalem as part of his Harvard School of Divinity traveling fellowship (p.1). However, due to the events of World War II, the Mediterranean was closed, leaving Smith stranded in Jerusalem indefinitely (p.1). Smith began studying for a doctorate while staying in a former Greek Orthodox monastery adjacent to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, under the supervision of Father Archimandrite Kyriakos Spyridonides (p.1) That year, Father Kyriakos invited Smith to accompany him on a trip to Mar Saba, considered to be one of the greatest desert monasteries of the Greek Orthodox Church that still performs authentic services from the time of the Byzantine Empire(p.2)

When he arrived at Mar Saba, the monks gave Smith a tour of the monastery, as well as some nearby caves (p.4). These caves stored had paintings and inscriptions inside, but were also rumored to have had fragments of manuscripts that were hidden during times of persecution (p.4). Later on, when the monastery developed in the caves, a great fire occurred during the 18th Century, destroying many of the manuscripts (p.5). Whatever survived was either sent to Jerusalem or stored in the tower of the Church built during the 19th Century (p.5).

The following year, Smith left Mar Saba and returned to Jerusalem to continue his doctoral work (p.6). Just as he finished, the Mediterranean reopened for Americans, and Smith returned to the United States (p.8). At the time, Smith developed a great love for hunting for and examining Greek manuscripts (p.8). Smith also kept in touch with Father Kyriakos, relating his interest in Greek manuscripts (p.9). Hence, Smith was invited back to Mar Saba in 1958 to explore the possibility of finding Greek manuscripts there (p.9).

During his three-week stay at Mar Saba, Smith would spend every morning other than Sunday in the Church tower searching for manuscripts (p.10-11). Smith really hoped that despite most of the manuscripts having been transported to Jerusalem, he would be able to find some worthy manuscripts in this tower (p.11). After he found three or four volumes containing manuscript fragments, Smith would take the volumes down to his study, examine what exactly they were, then return them the next day (p.11). This process continued every day until the volumes were organized (p.11).

Eventually, Smith did find some noteworthy volumes. The most important and relevant of his findings was a book containing a letter beginning "From the letters of the most holy Clement, the author of Stromateis. To Theodore:" (p.12). Clement of Alexandria was an early Christian writer, who disliked an early Gnostic sect of Christians known as the Carpocratians (p.12). Smith realized that if these letters were in fact authentic, they could provide information both about early Church history and the Carpocratians (p.12). Thus, Smith took it upon himself to examine this manuscript fragment and determine its authenticity (p.13). He photographed the documents before leaving Mar Saba to ensure that he could further examine it after his departure (p.14).

After translating the manuscript, Smith discovered that this letter from Clement explained the nature and history of a secret Gospel of Mark. Apparently, when Peter stayed in Rome, he kept records of Jesus' activities (p.15). After Peter died, Mark combined his own notes with those of Peter and left the composition in Alexandria to be guarded from those who would not be able to understand it, thus interpreting it in a wrong, harmful manner (p.15). Clement also states that Carpocrates, whom the Carpocratians base their religion, was able to use magical powers to access a look at the hidden document and interpret it for his own ill explanation (p.16). Clement believes that Theodore is trustworthy enough to receive the contents of the secret document, so he includes, verbatim, excerpts from the text:

"And they come into Bethany, and a certain woman, whose brother ha died, was there. And, coming, she prostrated herself before Jesus and says to him, 'Son of David, have mercy on me.' But the disciple rebuked her. And Jesus, being angered, went off with her into the garden where the tomb was, went off with her into 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 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 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,

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