Later scholars have sometimes claimed Morton Smith forged the Secret Gospel of Mark; he claimed he *discovered* it. Which is it? Here I continue with my account of how he said it all happened. In my previous post I indicated that in 1958 Smith was catagaloguing the books of the library of the monastery of Mar Saba near Jerusalem, when he found a book that had a text written into its final (blank) pages. It was allegedly a letter of Clement of Alexandria, a famous theologian and ethicist who lived and wrote around 200 CE.
Smith immediately recognized that it was a letter we did not have before. And here is how I discuss what he did next, in my book Lost Christianities (Oxford University Press, 2003).
On the spot, Smith decided to photograph the three pages that contained the handwritten copy of Clement’s letter, but chose to hold off translating the entire text until later, reasoning that if some such treasure had turned up, there might be more where that came from; given his limited time, he did not want to miss a thing. Using a hand-held camera, he took three sets of photos, just to be sure. And then he went about his business hunting for other significant finds and cataloguing the results.
Nothing else of comparable significance turned up. And Smith did not realize the full significance of this handwritten letter until later, when he translated it and saw what it actually contained. The letter is addressed to an otherwise unknown person named Theodore, written in response to some of his queries about a particularly notorious sect of early Christians known as the Carpocratians, named after the founder of their sect, Carpocrates.
We know about Carpocrates and his followers from the other writings of Clement, and from those of his younger contemporary Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, and some years later, from Hippolytus of Rome. The Carpocratians were particularly vilified by such proto-orthodox authors because they were believed to engage in wild licentious activities as part of their liturgical services of worship, which were reputed to