Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some More SBL

It looks like I had reached Sunday night in my narrative of my own experience of this year's SBL Annual Meeting, and so we reach Monday. As usual, it was an early start, and the Synoptic Gospels Section Steering Committee Meeting. This was my last meeting with that group because I am standing down from this meeting. As usual, it was a most enjoyable and stimulating meeting and I will miss the group, but I have served for six years, which is quite long enough, and it is time for new blood. We had the meeting in the Sheraton and my goodness, did we get a lot of hassle from the staff there, who wanted to move us on as soon as possible because of the long queue. I then did a quite bit of blogging before going to the SBL Forum Advisory Board Meeting, also useful and interesting, and I agreed to serve another term. I dashed from there to the fag end of the Synoptics Section on Pedagogy and the Synoptic Problem. It's a section I would have liked to have attended in toto. By the time I arrived, it was the discussion, ably chaired by Mark Matson, and featuring contributions from Robert Derrenbacker, John Poirier and others.

I skipped lunch as part of my policy to avoid troughing my face too much this year, and found a little time to prepare to chair the 1pm session. I like to take some time to prepare when I am chairing, to work out how long we have, to check that I have everyone's names and job titles right, to think about how I am going to introduce the session and so on. It was the last SBL Synoptics Section that I would be chairing too and I wanted to make sure that I didn't make a mess of it. The session was on "Secret Mark After Fifty Years". We asked for a large room, and it was absolutely packed -- very few spare seats. We had worked hard to make sure that the panel was perfectly balanced. We began with Birger Pearson, "Secret Mark: A Twentieth Century Fake", a helpful summary of Stephen Carlson's and Peter Jeffery's cases, with some reflections on his own change of mind on the issue. Stephen Carlson himself was second, with a paper asking how the guild can save itself from one of its own. It was a polished paper, well read, and just right for the session. We then turned to those who defend the authenticity of the document, first Allan Pantuck, who had a nice powerpoint presentation that took the audience through some fascinating excerpts from Morton Smith's archive, though with no "smoking gun", as Pantuck admitted. Scott Brown had planned to speak on ten enduring miconceptions about Secret Mark, but had decided to limit them to five, and he got through four of them in the available time. The two respondents were Charles Hedrick and Bart Ehrman, both excellent speakers, and we had thirty minutes at the end for discussion.

The first person on his feet was Helmut Koester, who came to the front and asked for the microphone. His contribution caused a bit of a stir, beginning with his lament that the SBL had now taken to "dishonoring the dead" and going on to suggest that Morton Smith could not have forged Secret Mark since it represented a form-critically earlier version of the Lazarus story of John 11, and Morton Smith was not a good form-critic. "If the Secret Gospel of Mark is a forgery," Koester said, "then I am the biggest fool in the SBL."

The session was a success, I think, with stimulating, lively exchanges, only some of them bad-tempered, key issues addressed and a large audience. Once it had finished, and my own direct involvement in SBL sessions over, I was ready to unwind. After a drink with a friend in the Champions bar at our hotel, the Boston Copley Marriott, four of us met and headed to Cambridge on the subway. We ate at the Intermission Pub and then watched the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, at the same cinema where we watched The World is Not Enough during the SBL in 1999, the last time we were in Boston. It's not the best Bond film; it may even be the weakest since Licence to Kill in 89, perhaps longer. But it was still fun, and the last ten seconds at least partly redeemed it for me. Still, it's a great tradition to get to the Bond film at the SBL, and nice too to get over to Cambridge, albeit just for the evening.

And that was more or less the lot. I flew back on Tuesday, and one of the great pluses of living in America is that you don't go straight back to work. There are no classes, and a Thanksgiving break to enjoy.

6 comments:

Peter M. Head said...

The Secret Mark Session was very well chaired: you kept everyone to time and managed the whole thing well. So thanks for that.
It was also very thought-provoking in terms of content - with very good balance on the both sides (I am no longer sure there is a middle position here), especially some of the things gathered by Allan Pantuck which I had never seen before; but also some of Scott Brown's comments.

steph said...

Dishonouring the dead? Just because I'm doing what I'm doing, I'm not dishonouring a whole bunch of dead scholars, let alone Kloppenborg. I'm just questioning the logic of existing solutions. Koester appears to criticise Smith anyway when he was probably alot cleverer than he gives him credit for. It is unfortunate that he said "If the Secret Gospel of Mark is a forgery then I am the biggest fool in the SBL." Imagine if Ron Cameron had said the same of the manuscript of "Q". He's certain there was a manuscript that is the image of "The Critical Edition"...

Margaret said...

I was only there for the tail-end of the discussion... actually I only went to hear Bart Ehrman speak because I had never seen him before and was curious. I hadn't heard of this Secret Mark before but found the discussion fascinating. So what is your take on Secret Mark... fake or real?

James F. McGrath said...

I had hoped we'd finally get to meet face to face. When we didn't, I assumed you'd left the building to stalk Peter Davison. Did you spot him?

Anonymous said...

Though I think that Pantuck's publication of a photo from Mar Saba ms 22 will call for some degree of revision of Stephen Carlson's description of Madiotes, the evidence has surely increased that Morton Smith indeed penned the "Clement" letter. In addition to the evidence added by Peter Jeffery's "Secret Gospel" book, the newly-published M. Smith-Gershom Scholem correspondence reveals Smith working, pre 1958, precisely on Mark, on paleography, and on Clement of Alexandria. Then, in 1958, Smith promptly took the text to show Scholem. Scholem did not know if was a fake, though Smith write it, I say, in part, for Scholem.
Stephen Goranson
http://www.duke.edu/~goranson

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Peter, and all. James: no, didn't spot Davison, alas. And didn't get time to go to the New England Fan Experience to see him. Sorry we didn't get to meet each other, James. Thanks for the useful comments, Stephen.