NEW YORK, NY.-
Expert handwriting analysis has concluded that Morton Smith did not forge the document known as Secret Mark. More than fifty years ago in a Judean desert monastery, Columbia University professor Morton Smith discovered a previously unknown letter from Clement of Alexandria, a second-century church father, which contained passages of a lost secret gospel of Mark. A debate over the authenticity of this document continues to this day.
A number of scholars have concluded that Smith forged the document known as the Clement letter, or Secret Mark. In a four-part treatment in the November/December 2009 issue, including contributions by eminent New Testament scholars, Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) concluded that Smith, now dead, was innocent. BAR also engaged a handwriting expert to compare the handwriting in which the Clement letter was written with Greek handwriting known to be Smiths.
Greek handwriting expert Venetia Anastasopoulou returned a 36-page report, stating that there was significant disagreement between Smiths handwriting and the handwriting of the Clement letter, thus Smith could not have forged it. Professor Peter Jeffery of the University of Notre Dame and Princeton University responded to the forgery debate and to Anastasopoulous report, looking for clarification on several items.
Ms. Anastasopoulou has now provided a secondary analysis of the document stating that, not only does it lack evidence that Morton Smith forged it, the document does not appear to be a forgery at all. She concludes that Secret Mark is written in a natural and spontaneous way and in my opinion does not have such indications so as to make us think of a suspicious writing.
The full BAR coverage of the Secret Mark controversy, including the English translation of the text, Venetia Anastasopoulous full handwriting report, Peter Jefferys response and Anastasopoulous follow-up, can be read for free in the Scholars Study section of the Biblical Archaeology Societys Web site at http://www.bib-arch.org/scholars-study/secret-mark.asp