Friday, June 17, 2022

Supernatural visions: Catholic, Protestant and Mormon

Whilst reading Trevan Hatch’s When the Lights Came On, I felt compelled to reflect on the very nature of supernatural visions. In the first chapter of the book, Hatch provides twenty examples of claimed supernatural visions by individuals in America between 1741-1827. All twenty individuals related two common elements concerning their claimed visionary experiences: first, they saw God the Father and Jesus Christ together at the same time; and second, both of them appeared as men.

Now, all twenty of individuals were of a Protestant background—no visionary experiences from Catholics were provided. I suspect that Hatch did not reference any Catholic examples because he could not find any Catholic visionary experiences that shared the two common elements of the twenty individuals he referenced—they saw both God the Father and Jesus Christ together and as men. Personally speaking, I am not aware any visionary experiences reported by individuals within the Catholic tradition that had God the Father and Jesus Christ appearing together in a vision as men.

Catholics have claimed visions of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Michael the Archangel, Satan and demons; but to my knowledge, no Catholic has reported that they have seen God the Father in a vision. [For an excellent treatment on Catholic visionary experiences, see THIS LINK.]

With that said, many Catholic—and Eastern Orthodox—mystics have claimed to had some sort of supernatural interaction with God. Such reported mystical experiences seem to be of a different order/nature than those experiences that have historically been termed ‘visions'. 

In ending, I would like to know what folk of differing Christian traditions think about the claimed visions of those who are not within their own tradition.

Grace and peace,


P.S. I cannot help but think that the issue of ‘visions’ is somehow connected the doctrine of the ‘beatific vision’—see THIS POST for some reflections on Visio Dei.

Friday, April 29, 2022

A History of the Catholic Church (8 volumes) by Fernand Mourett, translated by Newton Thompson

Over 30 years ago, I was able to purchase the first 5 volumes of Fernand Mourett’s A History of the Catholic Church, translated into English by Newton Thompson.

Mourett’s Histoire générale de l'Église was originally published in France between 1914-1927 in 9 volumes.  Thompson subsequently translated the first 8 volumes into English, which were published by the B. Herder Book Co. between 1931-1957. This English set is over 5,500 pages in length, beginning with the birth of Jesus Christ to the Virgin Mary, and taking one through nearly 1900 years of the history of the Church that He established.

Earlier today, I discovered that Thompson’s English translation is now available online to read and/or download (all 8 volumes) via the following link:

Though it has been quite a number of years since I last read the first 5 volumes that are on my shelves, I recall them as being quite solid, and a valuable supplement to Philip Schaff’s 8 volume set. I am looking forward to reading volumes 6-8.

Folk who are interested in the history of the Christian Church should consider adding this set to their hard-drive.


Grace and peace,


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Vincent of Lerins - quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est

The Latin quoted in the title of this post—known as the ‘Vincentian Canon’ and/or 'Vincent's Rule'—was translated into English by Heurtley as: “which [faith] has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” (A Commonitory, NPNF - XI.132). This canon/rule was first expressed in the Commonitorium written by Vincent of Lerins, and was essentially a threefold test for identifying true doctrines from heretical ones. 

Vincent discerned that heretical doctrines/teachers tended be geographically localized, rather than dispersed throughout all the Christian regions; as such, ‘everywhere' (ubiquity) was one of the tests. Another test was ‘always', which meant for Vincent that true doctrines originated in antiquity (apostolic times), and do not emerge at a later date—e.g. the Montanists, Arians, Donatists, Apollinarians, Nestorians. And finally, concerning the ‘by all' test, Vincent primarily had the bishops convened at the Ecumenical Councils in mind (though not exclusively so).

Unfortunately, Vincent’s canon/rule has historically been misused and misunderstood. An excellent antidote to such abuses is Thomas G. Guarino’s above pictured book, Vincent of Lérins and the Development of Doctrine (2013 – Google preview). One of the most important points made by Guarino is that Vincent has a ‘second rule’, and that one must correctly identify this ‘second rule’ in order to properly interpret Vincent’s ‘first rule’; note the following:

A second essential element in interpreting the Vincentian canon is that his first rule must always be taken in conjunction with the Lérinian’s “second rule”: over time growth undoubtedly occurs in Christian doctrine. (Page 6)

I shall turn to the pen of Vincent himself to expound on what he meant concerning the development/growth of Christian doctrine. From his A Commonitory we read:

But some one will say perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind ; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning. (NPNF  - XI.147, 148)


From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind — wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the character of the plant. There may supervene shape, form, variation in outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted into thorns and thistles. God forbid that in that spiritual paradise from plants 'of cinnamon and balsam darnel and wolfsbane should of a sudden shoot forth.

Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated. They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties. (NPNF  - XI.147, 148)

Another important part of Guarino’s book is his analysis of Newman’s theory of development as it relates to Vincent’s. More on this at a later date, the Lord willing…

Grace and peace,


Thursday, March 3, 2022

The death of Dr. Gary North

Earlier today, I read that Dr. Gary North had died on February 24, 2022. The following was posted on Gary North’s Specific Answers website (link):

Gary North, RIP

When Gary Kilgore North passed away on February 24, 2022, at the age of 80, he left behind a massive storehouse of Christian scholarship without parallel in the modern church. For nearly fifty-five straight and solid years he applied himself as a craftsman with single-minded devotion to researching, writing, and speaking about God’s world from the perspective of God’s Word. While he lived his work benefited his large readership around the world. For generations to come it will be of great use to the Church of his Lord Jesus Christ.

[A concise biography of Dr. North follows the above, opening paragraph.]

Personally speaking, I became aware of Dr. North via an article by Rodney Clapp that was published in Christianity Today back on February 20, 1987 under the title, “Democracy as Heresy” (pp. 17-23). The article was a brief history of the movement that became known as “Christian Reconstructionism". [See Michael J. McVicar’s contribution at A.R.D.A.  for more historical details - link; McVicar is the author of the scholarly book, Christian Reconstruction, which I mentioned here at AF back on May 4, 2015 – link.]

Rodney Clapp included Dr. North as one of “the three primary figures of the movement" (p.18)—i.e. Christian Reconstuctionism—the other two being Greg L. Bahnsen who passed on Dec. 11, 1995, and R. J. Rushdoony who died on Feb. 8, 2001.

When the Christianity Today article was published, I was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I discovered that Dr. Bahnsen was an ordained minister of the OPC, and this prompted me to begin an in depth study into Christian Reconstuctionism. I ended up obtaining almost all of the books and journals published by Bahnsen, North and Rushdoony—as well as those by a number of their prominent followers—e.g. David Chilton, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Ray Sutton. [See THIS LINK for free PDFs of dozens of their contributions.]

I was a devoted student of Christian Reconstructionism for well over a decade, with Dr. North being one of my favorite authors of the movement. Though I no longer consider myself part of the movement, I am able to acknowledge some positive influences and memories from that period of my studies.

It is my sincere hope that Dr. North is now with our Lord...

Grace and peace,


Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Bible’s textual history: dubious theories and forgeries – part three (Codex Sinaiticus, Simonides and Tischendorf)

This third post in my series on the Bible’s textual history is somewhat of a departure from the first two in that manuscript in question is not a possible ‘forgery’ in a strict sense, but rather it may be a 19th century production that was originally intended to be a gift, rather than a forgery meant to pass off as an actual ancient work.

The document in question is one that Constantine Tischendorf first laid eyes in 1844 in St. Catherine’s monastery “at the foot of Mount Sinai", which became known as the Codex Sinaiticus. Concerning this ‘discovery', Tischendorf wrote:

It was at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the Convent of St. Catherine, that I discovered the pearl of all my researches. In visiting the library of the monastery, in the month of May, 1844, I perceived in the middle of the great hall a large and wide basket full of old parchments; and the librarian, who was a man of information, told me that two heaps of papers like these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames. What was my surprise to find amid this heap of papers a considerable number of sheets of a copy of the Old Testament in Greek, which seemed to me to be one of the most ancient that I had ever seen. The authorities of the convent allowed me to possess myself of a third of these parchments, or about forty-three sheets, all the more readily as they were destined for the fire. But I could not get them to yield up possession of the remainder. The too lively satisfaction which I had displayed had aroused their suspicions as to the value of this manuscript. I transcribed a page of the text of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and enjoined on the monks to take religious care of all such remains which might fall in their way. (When Were the Gospels Written?,  Second Edition 1867, pp. 23, 24 – link)

Two important elements of the above story related by Tischendorf have been repeatedly denied by the monks at St. Catherine’s: first, that the manuscript now known as the Codex Sinaiticus was in a “wide basket full of old parchments"; and second, "that two heaps of papers like these, mouldered by time, had been already committed to the flames.”

Tischendorf returned to Saxony with the “forty-three sheets". He continued his narrative concerning the Codex Sinaiticus with the following:

On my return to Saxony there were men of learning who at once appreciated the value of the treasure which I brought back with me. I did not divulge the name of the place where I had found it, in the hopes of returning and recovering the rest of the manuscript. I handed up to the Saxon Government my rich collection of oriental manuscripts in return for the payment of all my travelling expenses, I deposited in the library of the University of Leipzig, in the shape of a collection, which bears my name, fifty manuscripts, some of which are very rare and interesting. I did the same with the Sinaitic fragments, to which I gave the name of Codex Frederick Augustus, in acknowledgment of the patronage given to me by the King of Saxony ; and I published them in Saxony in a sumptuous edition, in which each letter and stroke was exactly reproduced by the aid of lithography.

But these home labours upon the manuscripts which I had already safely garnered, did not allow me to forget the distant treasure which I had discovered. I made use of an influential friend, who then resided at the court of the Viceroy of Egypt, to carry on negotiations for procuring the rest of the manuscripts. But his attempts were, unfortunately, not successful. "The monks of the convent," he wrote to me to say, "have, since your departure, learned the value of these sheets of parchment, and will not part with them at any price."

I resolved, therefore, to return to the East to copy this priceless manuscript. (Ibid. pp. 24, 25).

Tischendorf returned to St. Catherine’s in 1853, but was unable to obtain the rest of “this priceless manuscript.” Six years later (1859), on his third visit to the monastery, he was able to obtain the rest of the manuscript he had first seen back in 1844. He convinced the monks to give him the manuscript under the pretense that it was only going to be a loan, and that when he had finished making a copy, it would be returned. As we now know, he did not keep his promise. (The manuscript now resides in the renowned British Museum/Library—it has been there since its purchase from the Soviet Union in 1933.)

Tischendorf’s version of the 'discovery’ of an ancient manuscript in the St. Catherine monastery at Mount Sinai is the one that most folk are familiar with.  However, there is another version that came to light three years after Tischendorf had obtained the Codex. On September 3, 1862 a letter by Constantine Simonides was published in The Guardian (a London newspaper), wherein he emphatically claimed that the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript was not produced in the 4th century as claimed by Tischendorf, but rather that it was written by Simonides himself.

The entire letter was republished the next month in The Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record (Volume II—New Series—October, 1862, pp. 248-250 – link), and is quoted in full below:


“ As you have, in your impression of August 13, published a letter from a correspondent, signing himself F. J. A. H., in which reference is made to me, I must ask you for permission to make a statement in reply. Your correspondent favours you with some extracts from a letter written by Dr. Tregelles, in which the following sentence occurs: ‘I believe that I need hardly say that the story of Simonides, that he wrote the M8., is as false and absurd as possible.’

“The MS. referred to is that called the Codex Sinaiticus, now being published under the editorship of Professor Tischendorf, at the expense of the Russian government. As what Dr. Tregelles calls my ‘story’ has never been published, and as that gentleman can only have heard of it through an indirect medium, it may interest both Dr. Tregelles and your readers to have the ‘story’ direct from myself. I will tell it as briefly as possible.

“ About the end of the yer 1839, the venerable Benedict, my uncle, spiritual head of the monastery of the holy martyr, Panteleemon, in Mount Athos, wished to present to the Emperor Nicholas I., of Russia, some gift from the sacred mountain, in grateful acknowledgment of the presents which had, from time to time, been offered to the monastery of the martyr. Not possessing anything which he deemed acceptable, he consulted with the herald Procopius and the Russian monk Paul, and they decided upon a copy of the Old and New Testaments, written according to the ancient form, in capital letters, and on parchment. This, together with the remains of the seven apostolic fathers,—Barnabas, Hermas, Clement bishop of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, and Dionysius the Areopagite,—they proposed should be bound in gold, and presented to the emperor by a common friend. Dionysius, the professional caligrapher of the monastery, was then begged to undertake the work, but he declined, saying that the task being exceedingly difficult, he would rather not do so. In consequence of this, I myself determined to begin the work, especially as my revered uncle seemed earnestly to wish it. Having then examined the principal copies of the Holy Scriptures preserved at Mount Athos, I began to practise the principles of caligraphy; and the learned Benedict, taking a copy of the Moscow  edition of both Testaments (published and presented to the Greeks by the illustrious brothers Zosimas), collated it with the ancient ones, and by this means cleared it of many errors, after which he gave it into my hands to transcribe. Having then received both the Testaments, freed from errors (the old spelling, however, remaining unaltered), being short of parchment, I selected from the library of the monastery, with Benedict’s permission, a very bulky volume, antiquely bound, and almost entirely blank, the parchment of which was remarkably clean, and beautifully finished. This had been prepared apparently many centuries ago—probably by the writer or by the principal of the monastery, as it bore the inscription, EΚΛΟΓΙΟΝ ΠΑΝΗΓΥΡΙΚΟΝ (a Collection of Panegyrics), and also a short discourse much injured by time.

“ I therefore took possession of this book, and prepared it by taking out the leaf containing the discourse, and by removing several others injured by time and moths, after which I began my task. First, I copied out the Old and New Testaments, then the Epistle of Barnabas, the first part of the pastoral writings of Hermas in capital letters (or uncial characters) in the style known in caligraphy as ἀμφιδέξιος (amphidexios). The transcription of the remaining apostolic writings, however, I declined, because the supply of parchment ran short, and the severe loss which I sustained in the death or Benedict induced me to hand the work over at once to the bookbinders of the monastery, for the purpose of replacing the original covers, made of wood and covered with leather, which I had removed for convenience—and when he had done so, I took it into my possession.

“ Some time after this, having removed to Constantinople, I shewed the work to the patriarchs Anthimus and Constantius, and communicated to them the reason of the transcription. Constantius took it, and, having thoroughly examined it, urged me to present it to the library of Sinai, which I accordingly promised to do. Constantius had previously been bishop of Sinai, and since his resignation of that office had again become perpetual bishop of that place.

“ Shortly after this I was placed under the protection of the illustrious Countess Etleng and her brother, A. 8. Stourtzas, by the co-operation of two patriarchs; but, before departing for Odessa, 1 went over to the island of Antigonus to visit Constantius, and to perform my promise of giving up the manuscript to the library of Mount Sinai. The patriarch was, however, absent from home, and I, consequently, left the packet for him with a letter. On his return, he wrote me the following answer:—

“ ’My dearly beloved son in the Holy Spirit, Simonides; Grace be with you and peace from God. I received with unfeigned satisfaction your  truly valuable transcript of the Holy Scriptures—namely, the Old and New Testaments, together with the epistle of St. Barnabas and the first part of the pastoral writings of Hermas, bound in one volume, which shall be placed in the library of Mount Sinai, according to your wish. But I exhort you earnestly (if ever by God's will you should return to the sacred Mount Athos) to finish the work as you originally designed it, and He will reward you. Be with me on the 3rd of next month, that I may give you letters to the illustrious A. 8. Stourtzas, to inform him of your talents and abilities, and to give you a few hints which may prove useful to the success of your plans. I sincerely trust that you were born for the honour of your country. Amen.

“’CONSTANTIUS, late of Constantinople, an earnest worshipper in Christ.

“ ’Island of Antigonus, 13th August, 1841,’”

“ After I had received the above letter, I again went to visit the patriarch, who gave me the kindest and most paternal advice, with letters to Stourtzas, after which I returned to Constantinople, and from thence went to Odessa in November, 1841.

“ In 1846 I again returned to Constantinople, when I at once went over to the island of Antigonus to visit Constantius, and to place in his possession a large packet of MSS. He received me with the greatest kindness, and we conversed on many different subjects, amongst others upon my transcript, when he informed me that he had sent it some time previously to Mount Sinai.

“ In 1852 I saw it there myself, and begged the librarian to inform me how the monastery had acquired it; but he did not appear to know anything of the matter, and I, for my part, said nothing. However, I examined the MS. and found it much altered, having an older appearance than it ought to have. The dedication to the Emperor Nicholas, placed at the beginning of the book, had been removed. I then began my philological researches, for there were several valuable MSS. in the library, which I wished to examine. Amongst them, I found the pastoral writings of Hermas, the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, and the disputed Epistle of Aristeas to Philoctctes (all written on Egyptian papyrus of the first century), with others not unworthy of note. All this I communicated to Constantius, and afterwards to my spiritual father, Callistratus, at Alexandria.

“ You have thus a short and clear account of the Codex Simonideios, which Professor Tischendorf, when at Sinai, contrived, I know not how, to carry away; and, going to St. Petersburg, published his discovery there under the name of the Codex Sinaiticus. When, about two years ago, I saw the first facsimiles of Tischendorf, which were put into my hand at Liverpool, by Mr. Newton, a Friend of Dr. Tregelles, I at once recognized my own work, as I immediately told. him.

“ The above is a true statement of the origin and history of the famous Codex Sinaiticus, which Professor Tischendorf has foisted on the learned world as a MS. of the fourth century. I have now only one or two remarks to make. The name of the professional caligraphist to the monastery of St. Panteleemon was Dionysius; the name of the monk who was sent by the Patriarch Constantius to convey the volume from the island of Antigonus to Sinai was Germanus. The volume, whilst in my possession, was seen by many persons, and it was perused with attention by the Hadji John Prodromos, son of Pappa Prodromos, who was a minister of the Greek Church in Trebizond. John Prodromos kept a coffee house in Galatas, Conatantinople, and probably does so still. The note from the Patriarch Constantius, acknowledging the receipt of the MS., together with 25,000 piastres, sent to me by Constantius as a benediction, was brought to me by the Deacon Hilarion, All the persons thus named are, I believe, still alive, and could bear witness to the truth of my statement.

“ Of the internal evidence of the MS. I shall not now speak. Any person learned in palæography ought to be able to tell at once that it is a MS. of the present age. But I may just note that my uncle Benedict corrected the MS. in many places, and as it was intended to be re-copied, he marked many letters which he proposed to have illuminated. The corrections in the handwriting of my uncle I can, of course, point out; as also those of Dionysius the caligraphist. In various places I marked in the margin the initials of the different (SS. from which I had taken certain passages and readings. These initials appear to have greatly bewildered Professor Tischendorf, who has invented several highly ingenious methods of accounting for them. Lastly, I declare my ability to point to two distinct pages in the MS., though I have not seen it for years, in which is contained the most unquestionable proof of its being my writing.

“ In making this statement, I know perfectly well the consequences I shall bring upon myself; but I have so long been accustomed to calumny, that I have grown indifferent to it; and I now solemnly declare that my only motive for publishing this letter is to advance the cause of truth, and protect sacred letters from imposition.

“ In conclusion, you must permit me to express my sincere regret that, whilst the many valuable remains of antiquity in my possession are frequently attributed to my own hands, the one poor work of my youth is set down by a gentleman who enjoys a great reputation for learning, as the earliest copy of the Sacred Scriptures.

“ C. Simonides.”

[In addition to the two sources mentioned, the letter was also published in The Literary Churchman 16th December, 1862 and in J. K. Elliott’s book, Codex Sinaiticus and the Simonides Affair (1982) pp. 28-30.]

The above letter precipitated a voluminous exchange of letters that pitted  Tischendorf and his supporters, against Simonides and those who came to his defense—letters that were published from September 1862 through end of 1863. Tischendorf’s claims became the accepted version after this extended, controversial exchange. In fact, for nearly 150 years, it became somewhat of a rare occasion that Constantine Simonides' version was delved into when the Codex Sinaiticus was discussed—Elliott’s 1982 book was a notable exception.

However, shortly after the British Museum/Library published a digital version of the Codex Sinaiticus online in 2009, the long-standing neglect of Simonides' version came to an abrupt end…more later, the Lord willing.

Grace and peace,


Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Bible’s textual history: dubious theories and forgeries – part two

In part one of this series (link) the 20th century forgery known as the “Archaic Mark” was examined. In this second post of the series, another highly probable forgery shall be delved into: the document that has been titled the “Secret Gospel of Mark”.

I do not remember the exact year—sometime in the early 1980s—when I my eyes for the first time saw Morton Smith's book, The Secret Gospel - The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark", during one of my frequent browsing sessions at Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon. That same day, I bought the book, and shortly thereafter, read it. The dustcover of the book mentioned that, "an edition of the Greek text of the letter of Clement and the Secret Gospel will be published by Harvard University Press under the title, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark." On my next trip to Powell’s, I was able to obtain a copy of the tome. The Secret Gospel is a mere 148 pages, but the second book is considerably longer, 454 pages; both were published in 1973.

Within the pages of the two tomes Smith informed his readers that during his 1958 visit to the Greek Orthodox monastery at Mar Saba—located about 12 miles SE of Jerusalem—he discovered a manuscript that claimed to be an letter by Clement of Alexandria to an individual named Theodore (Theodoros). Smith took photographs of the manuscript and had them developed upon his return to Jerusalem. He then transcribed and translated the document. The following is his English translation:

From the letters of the most holy Clement, the author of the Stromateis. To Theodore.

You did well in silencing the unspeakable teachings of the Carpocrations. For these are the "wandering stars" referred to in the prophecy, who wander from the narrow road of the commandments into a boundless abyss of the carnal and bodily sins. 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 the darkness" of falsity, and boasting that they are free, they have become slaves of servile desires. Such [men] are to be opposed in all ways and altogether. For, even if they should say something true, one who loves the truth should not, even so, agree with them. For not all true [things] are the truth, nor should that truth which [merely] seems true according to human opinions be preferred to the true truth, that according to the faith.

Now of the [things] they keep saying about the divinely inspired Gospel according to Mark, some are altogether falsifications, and others, even if they do contain some true [elements], nevertheless are not reported truly. For the true [things], being mixed with inventions, are falsified, so that, as the saying [goes], even the salt loses its savor.

[As for] Mark, then, during Peter's stay in Rome he 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 being 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 toward knowledge [gnosis]. [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, but to the stories already written he added yet others and, moreover, brought in certain sayings of which he knew the interpretation would, as a mystagogue, lead the hearers into the innermost sanctuary of that truth hidden by seven veils. Thus, in sum, he prepared matters, neither grudgingly nor incautiously, in my opinion, and, dying, he left his composition to the church in Alexandria, where it even yet is most carefully guarded, being read only to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.

But since the foul demons are always devising destruction for the race of men, Carpocrates, instructed by them and using deceitful arts, so enslaved a certain presbyter of the church in Alexandria that he got from him a copy of the secret Gospel, which he both interpreted according to his blasphemous and carnal doctrine and, moreover, polluted, mixing with the spotless and holy words utterly shameless lies. From this mixture is drawn off the teaching of the Carpocratians.

To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath. For, "Not all true [things] are to be said to all men". For this [reason] the Wisdom of God, through Solomon, advises, "Answer the fool from his folly", teaching that the light of the truth should be hidden from those who are mentally blind. Again it says, "From him who has not shall be taken away", and "Let the fool walk in darkness". But we are "children of Light", having been illuminated by "the dayspring" of the spirit of the Lord "from on high", and "Where the Spirit of the Lord is", it says, "there is liberty", for "All things are pure to the pure".

To you, therefore, I shall not hesitate to answer the [questions] you have asked, refuting the falsifications by the very words of the Gospel. For example, after "And they were in the road going up to Jerusalem" and what follows, until "After three days he shall arise", [the secret Gospel] brings the following [material] word for word:

"And they come into Bethany. And a certain woman whose brother had died was there. And, coming, 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 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 straightaway, 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 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."

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 the 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 . . . [The Secret Gospel, pp. 14-17/Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, pp. 446, 447; the second volume excludes all the brackets and italics.]

As related in his books, Smith initially had reservations concerning the authenticity of the letter/manuscript; but after extensive research—which included assessments from a number of his scholarly peers—he came to accept it as genuine.

As I recall, I remained more reserved, leaning towards the position that it was a forgery—though not definitively so. I did no further research into the matter after my first reading of the two tomes in the early 80s—that is until this current investigation into the textual history of the Bible.

Thanks to the internet (and some recent purchases), I have been able to solidify my initialsomewhat tentativeview that the letter/manuscript is a forgery; reaching the conclusion that it was Morton Smith himself who was the forger. One book in particular convinced me of this: Stephen C. Carlson’s, The Gospel Hoax – Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark (2005).

I read this book over the last few days, checking as many of the references Carlson provided that I could find online. I have also obtained and read a number of works that have been critical of Carlson’s assessment, finding those works falling short in their attempts to discredit Carlson. I was able to discern that the critics I read seemed to reject the supernatural origin and character of the Bible and Christianity, resorting to naturalist explanations for the founding of Christianity. I suspect that this may have influenced their support for Smith.

Work on this post began yesterday, and part of my plans for the format of the post was to provide a number of quotes from Carlson’s book. However, this morning while checking some references online, I discovered that a PDF version of the book is now available online LINK;  so rather than providing excepts from the book, interested folk can now read the entire book for themselves.

Shall end this post with the same question I asked in part one of this series: are there other possible forgeries of Biblical manuscripts that scholars have also misjudged?

Grace and peace,


Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Bible’s textual history: dubious theories and forgeries – part one

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been engaged in a deep investigation into the textual history of the Bible. This is not the first time I have done so—over the last 30 plus years I have devoted weeks of study into this issue about every 5 years—but this occasion has some added some details/elements that were missing from all my previous endeavors.

This first post of my new series on the Bible’s textual history will focus on one of those new elements: a proven forgery—beyond any reasonable doubt—of a purported archaic New Testament manuscript of Mark’s gospel that had been embraced and promoted by some of the most prominent textual scholars of the twentieth century as authentic; and they did so for decades.

The manuscript of which I speak was purchased by the University of Chicago circa 1937-1941 for an undisclosed amount from one Gregory Vlastos, a nephew of John Askitopoulos—an Athenian collector and dealer of antiquities—who had died in 1917. (See this article for more details.)

This manuscript was catalogued into the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection under number MS 972; it was subsequently registered as Gregory-Aland 2427, and became known as the "Archaic Mark."

Two of the highest level New Testament textual scholars, Kurt and Barbara Aland, had for a number decades accepted the antiquity of  “Archaic Mark" (MS 972/ Gregory-Aland 2427). In their celebrated The Text of the New Testament (English ed. 1987/1989) they dated the manuscript to the 'fourteenth' century, and placed it into the "category I" documents grouping (p. 135/1987; p. 137/1989). Concerning the "category I" documents, they wrote:

Category I: Manuscripts of a very special quality which should always be considered in establishing the original text (e.g., the Alexandrian text belongs here). [p. 155/1987; p. 159/1989.]

In the XXVII edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (Aland, Black, Martini, Metzger, Wikgren - 1993), the manuscript is referenced in the critical apparatus at least once on every page of the 'ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΑΝ' (pp. 88-149).*

Clearly a number of New Testament textual scholars placed a high degree of value on the "Archaic Mark" manuscript. However, that all changed in the early twenty-first century. Back on November 4, 2009 Tommy Wasserman published the online article, Archaic Mark (Greg.-Aland 2427): A Story of a Modern Forgery (LINK). He provides an excellent summary of why the manuscript is now considered by scholars to be a forgery.

My current textual studies have raised a question: are there other possible forgeries of Biblical manuscripts that scholars have also misjudged? More on this in upcoming posts on this series, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,


*The XXVIII edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece (2012) has completely removed any reference to the Gregory-Aland 2427 manuscript.