Sunday, November 8, 2009

Correction in Regards to Dr. Steven Fine and His Views Concerning Morton Smith

In the previous post I mentioned that Dr. Steven Fine believed that the late Dr. Morton Smith forged the Clement letter concerning the alternative version of Mark. He has since clarified his position, both to me and to the Biblical Archeology Review. As I often state when quoting people, "any mistakes are mine." In this case it is certainly my mistake and I take full responsibility for it; my apologies to Dr. Fine.

To the Editor

Thank you for your comprehensive and even-handed presentation of the questions surrounding Morton Smith and Pseudo-Clement.  I, for one, do not believe that that Smith forged this fascinating document.  

I understand why some suspect him, however.  Smith was uniquely brilliant, but at the same time biting, sardonic, and had very complex relationships with the religions that he studied.  The disdain of this former priest toward traditional religions was palpable, sometimes to the detriment of his scholarly writings. As one of his most loyal students wrote in a volume dedicated to Smith's memory, "Smith never tired of discomforting the faithful."  

Within my own field, the study of Judaism in the Greco-Roman period, Smith's influence has been immense.  Scholarship is only now coming out from under his spell.  

None of this makes Morton Smith a forger.  It does, however, contextualize our continuing fascination with him, as well as the lingering controversies that have followed Morton Smith to the grave.

Steven Fine
Professor of Jewish History, Yeshiva University

Director, YU Center for Israel Studies


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