Do modern scholars ever produce “ancient” forgeries? In particular, have experts in the New Testament and early Christianity ever gone out on a limb and forged a Gospel, claiming to have discovered it, and tried then to convince others that it is ancient and authentic? Yup.
I’ve discussed some examples in earlier posts on the blog – e.g., just last year: https://ehrmanblog.org/teeth-will-be-provided/ But I don’t believe I have ever devoted any attention to the most famous instance, a “discovery” of an ancient text by a renowned scholar, a text that some other scholars claim he himself forged. Others very much think it really is authentic. The debate focuses on a brilliant academic named Morton Smith, and his alleged (or real) discovery of “The Secret Gospel of Mark.”
I devoted an entire discussion to Smith and the Secret Gospel twenty years ago in my book Lost Christianities; the book is about different kinds of early Christianity (Gnostics, Marcionites, Jewish Christians, etc.), and is particularly interested in the kinds of books they claimed provided “apostolic” support for their views. I won’t reproduce the whole chapter on the Secret Gospel here, but I will give the opening bits, hopefully to spark a bit of interest. It really is an extraordinarily intriguing issue, even though most lay folk don’t know about it.