“Secret Mark”: Introduction

In 973, when Morton Smith presented to the world the Clement letter and an unknown “secret” gospel of Mark, was he revealing an amazing Biblical manuscript discovery or attempting a risky scholarly stunt? With the help of the experts, our four-part treatment sets the scene of the find at Mar Saba monastery in the […]

“Secret Mark”: An Amazing Discovery

Southwest Missouri State University professor Charles Hedrick opens the discussion by setting the stage for us, as we asked him to do, without revealing his own belief in the authenticity of Secret Mark. In 1958 Morton Smith, a 43-year-old Columbia University history professor, spent the summer looking for ancient manuscripts and handwritten entries in […]

“Secret Mark”: Morton Smith—Forger

In true BAR fashion, we wanted to present the case for a forgery, a position numerous scholars hold. After being turned down by three major scholars who embrace this position, editor Hershel Shanks undertook to summarize the evidence himself. An increasing number of scholars are concluding that the Clement letter containing excerpts from Secret […]

“Secret Mark”: Was Morton Smith a Great Thespian and I a Complete Fool?

Harvard professor Helmut Koester presents a fascinating textual analysis of Secret Mark. Koester includes an account of his relationship with Columbia professor Morton Smith who discovered Secret Mark (or forged it) and why he believes it is authentic. Secret Mark makes a significant contribution to a better understanding of the transmission and history of […]

How the New Testament Gospels Developed

Finds of ancient manuscripts, often fragmentary, and quotations by the Church Fathers have shown that during the first and second centuries, at least ten gospels were circulating.1 The New Testament had not yet been canonized. That the Gospels were joined together in a collection of four and became part of what we know now […]

Early References to a Marcan Source

Our oldest extant manuscript of the Gospel of Mark dates from c. 250 C.E., that is, almost two centuries after its original composition. It is, of course, well established that the Gospel of Mark was written in the first century, because it was then used by Matthew and Luke at that time. Early in the second century, Bishop Papias of Hierapolis reports the existence of Mark’s gospel, but he does not quote any of its text.

“Secret Mark”: Restoring a Dead Scholar’s Reputation

Hershel Shanks reveals his own conclusion about Secret Mark as a result of his study of the opposing arguments.

New Studies of “Secret Mark” to Come—Please Help

Strangely enough, despite the dozens of books and articles written on whether Morton Smith forged the Clement letter, no one has turned to handwriting experts—until now.

Treasure in the Trash
The “Adonis of Dor”

Most people, when they first see this hauntingly beautiful mosaic discovered at Tel Dor, think it shows a woman, as did BAR editor Hershel Shanks when he visited the site in the summer of 2008. He compared it favorably with the Sepphoris mosaic that has been dubbed the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee,” suggesting […]

How Did Israel Become a People?
The genesis of Israelite identity By Avraham Faust

It used to be easy to identify the earliest Israelites. They are referred to in a well-known hieroglyphic stele known as the Merneptah Stele or, sometimes, the Israel Stele. The Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah, the son of Ramesses II, proclaims in this stele dated to the end of the 13th century B.C.E. that “Israel is […]

Past Perfect: A Knight in Bethlehem?

The prologue of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville begins in old-fashioned English, “I, John Mandeville, Knight, albeit I be not worthy, that was born in England, in the town of St. Albans, and passed the sea in the year of our Lord Jesu[s] Christ, 1322, in the day of St. Michael.” Although it […]


Eastern Desert, Jordan