Many who came out of the session may have been surprised at Brown’s demeanour. But I think it justified. The two main writers against the authenticity of the text, Carlson and Jeffery, are not biblical scholars. Their arguments are not based on the methodology used by biblical scholars. Yet many of their readers have been convinced by them, likely because their arguments merely confirmed in their minds what they hoped would be the case and not because the readers had sufficient knowledge of the contents of the text, nor of previous scholarship on it to make an informed decision.First, Tony appears to underestimate Stephen Carlson's scholarship (I will comment on Stephen Carlson since he and his work is much better known to me than Peter Jeffery's). It is true that Stephen does not yet have his PhD in this area, but he is already an outstanding scholar whose work is widely admired by those in the guild. He was already published in New Testament Studies (Clement of Alexandria on the "Order" of the Gospels) before his book on Secret Mark was written, and he has, of course, made pioneering contributions to the advancement of scholarship on the internet. But the point at issue in both the book and the recent SBL session is one not of credentials but of the quality of scholarship. Stephen has produced some fine scholarship on an issue that has been log-jammed for years. Indeed it may be that the outsider's perspective has helped Stephen to shed light on the issue. I understand that some people disagree with Stephen's conclusions but I hope that we can all agree on the quality of the scholarship.
Second, I think we should be wary of the idea that those who agree with Carlson and Jeffery do so out of ignorance or prejudice. Speaking for myself, I wrote an endorsement for The Gospel Hoax because I read it carefully in the light of familiarity with other scholarship on the issue and I was persuaded by its case. I know of others who feel the same way.
Furthermore, Brown and Pantuck have crafted some very detailed responses to Carlson and Jeffery that seem to be getting overlooked—Ehrman, for one, did not seem to be cognizant of the one article refuting the salt claim, and there were two allusions made to the size of Brown’s and Pantuck’s responses, as if thorough, detailed scholarly work was a bad thing. Brown is justifiably frustrated at the state of so-called scholarship (much of it he called “poppycock”) on Secret Mark.I regard the remark about "so-called scholarship" here as unfortunate. Similarly, I regarded Scott Brown's references to "poppycock" in the session as unfortunate. On issues as important as this, it is generally preferable to keep one's language measured and to focus on the key issues of scholarly disagreement. I don't recall the references to "the size of Brown's and Pantuck's responses", though my guess would be that the point of mentioning it is that a response to a large and detailed piece is inevitably time-consuming; it is something that cannot be taken lightly. Nevertheless, it is worth bearing in mind that Peter Jeffery has produced a lengthy response to Scott Brown's review of his book. Moreover, sometimes an author may legitimately choose not to respond to a review or an article, feeling that it is up to the reader to weigh the arguments on both sides.
Tony goes on to reflect on the role played by Secret Mark in the work of those he discusses in his recent "Heresy Hunting" article, but I am not sure how relevant this is to the discussion at the SBL, which was a balanced one in which I did not pick up any kind of ideological objection to the authenticity of the text.