SECRET GOSPEL OF SAINT MARK
In 1958, Morton Smith of Columbia University discovered two and a half pages of a letter purportedly written by CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA to an unknown Theodorus. The contents of this late copy of the original relate that Mark, after writing his Gospel in Rome with Peter, left that city after the apostle’s martyrdom and journeyed to Alexandria. From both his and Peter’s notes, which he had brought with him, Mark then wrote a secret gospel, the purpose of which was to be a ritual text for Christians “being initiated into the great mysteries.”
According to the letter, Clement’s purpose in writing to Theodorus was to warn him that CARPOCRATES had purloined a copy of the secret gospel and had both corrupted and misinterpreted the text. Answering Theodorus’ questions concerning the text, which was still kept under guard in Alexandria, Clement is giving a commentary on some passages when the fragment ends.
In the decade following his publication of the text, Smith cataloged publications and responses relating to the authenticity of the letter of Clement and the Secret Gospel of Mark. Acceptance of the letter’s authenticity was overwhelming, but not one publication defended the authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark that Clement mentioned and quoted to Theodorus.
- Smith, M. Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark. Cambridge, 1973.
- ____. “Clement of Alexandria and Secret Mark: The Score at the End of the First Decade.” Harvard Theological Review 75, no. 4 (1982):449-61.
C. WILFRED GRIGGS