Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Interview with Ariel Sabar on the NT Pod

Ariel Sabar, Veritas
Over on my podcast, I enjoyed a conversation earlier today with Ariel Sabar, author of Veritas: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife. It is an hour and thirteen minutes long and you can find it here:

NT Pod 95: Interview with Ariel Sabar, Author of Veritas (mp3) 

Or go to that page to find links to Apple Podcasts, Duke's Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, etc. 


Stephen Goranson said...

Veritas by Sabar is so fascinating that I just finished reading it a second time. I did occasionally wonder why he left something in or left something out, but it is a fine achievement. One correction, since dating matters: pages 9 and 10 twice give the impression that heresy-hunter Epiphanius lived in the second century, but he lived in the late fourth/early fifth centuries.

TonyTheProf said...

It's a fantastic book. Also the definitive closure on the subject.

Charlotte Allen said...

Here's my review of the book for the DC Examiner (behind a paywall but I can send a pdf to anyone who's interested):


The book is absolutely splendid. I can't believe what a terrific reporting job he did--and also what a great job he did explaining the technicalities of the problems with the "Jesus' Wife" papyrus. The book is quite damning for Karen King (I'm now dying to hunt down thAt issue of New Testament Studies in which she moved all her "outtakes" from her Harvard Theological Review article into her Gospel of Philip article--including the supposed "tradition" of Jesus being married--please, Library of Congress, reopen soon!).

The only cavil I'd have with the book is the ever-so-slightly potted history of early Christianity that surfaces now and then. Yes, Pope Gregory I famously conflated Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the sinner woman in Luke who wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. But he omits the context: Harmonizing the Gospels and trying to turn them into a single cohesive narrative was a theological fashion then--and I'm sure that Gregory wasn't the first to come up with that conflation. Furthermore, it didn't really denigrate Mary Magdalene, who was rediscovered during the Middle Ages and became everyone's favorite female saint next to the Virgin Mary; they loved the idea of repentant sinners. But these are very small things.

I wish, too, that he had explored a bit more how Karen King got hired, given her unusual background for the kind of mid-career scholar whom Harvard generally hires. I'm told that Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, with her almost monomanaical interest in feminist interpretations of Christianity, had a lot to do with it.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Charlotte. I'd love to see your review. I agree with you about Gregory. He was actually echoing what had been a harmonizing / synthesizing trajectory that began in the second century (I touched on this in my essay,“The Magdalene Effect: Reading and Misreading the Composite Mary in Early Christian Works” in Mary Ann Beavis and Ally Kateusz (eds.), Rediscovering the Marys: Maria, Mariamne, Miriam (Library of New Testament Studies; London & New York: Bloomsbury, 2020), 7-24.

Stephen Goranson said...

Ariel Sabar discussed the case of Morton Smith. So:

Did Morton salt Mar Saba?
There’s no consensus yet, but it may be, partly by unintended consequence, slowly arriving.
Geoffrey Smith recently showed persuasively (in LMWsymposium.com) that the letter by “Clement” (his quotation marks) was composed sometime after Eusebius’ History, so not by Clement. And, I add, if Clement of Alexandria disappears from this, likely so does the Secret Mark of Alexandria—apparently not know to Origen, nor anyone else, before Morton Smith. Geoffrey Smith, and co-author Brent Landau--who dismissed some proposals, but only some targets easier to caricature, not Smith seen in full (e.g., his humor)--propose it was written after Eusebius but before Morton Smith. Yet Michael Zeddies has demonstrated (JECS 2007; HTR 2009) that a very detailed revisionist setting can be argued, even if not finally persuasively. But Origen (Zeddies’ choice) stated that he had not met Carpocratians (correcting Harpocratians with Henry Chadwick and an assist from A. D. Nock; c. Cels. 5.65). Origen was not trickily addressing dead Celsus, an option M.S. offered in a 1984ff article (see below), but addressing his contemporary Christians, including patron Ambrose. Post Eusebius, Carpocratians were likely extinct; Epiphanius had to content himself for his disdain by quoting earlier writers. M. S. found in them a parallel to a version of Sabbatai Sevi’s tikkun, though Scholem demurred. Who else had similar motive? A forthcoming book (Yale UP) may attempt to answer that. After Origen and after Eusebius, Clement’s reputation was diminished by guilt by association with Origen—perhaps not a great pseudepigraphic pick to allege a Secret Gospel.
Morton Smith in a detailed article in JTS archive (box 10, folder 1), unpublished (though marked up for publishing), perhaps intended to be “the Score” after two decades, brazened it out, saying, in effect, of course this was Clement. Never you mind that the language is hyper-Clementonian and the content is non-Clementite, because the letter is his secret writing, as opposed to his other writing that Morton Smith repeatedly characterized as his writing in public. So difference to be expected, see? It does not take super imagination to find a subtext not far to seek: this is Clement, fools, because I wrote it as Clement! (More sermons by Augustine discovered in a Mainz library did not have changed doctrine.)
Some of his students, even without including Neusner, apparently think he was capable. At least one scholar Smith listed as accepting Clement authorship has denied that.
To say (with Brent Landau) that Smith was “ethical’ by leaving the book at Mar Saba begs the question whether he planted it there, pre-inscribed.
So far the most detailed paleographic publication is by Agamemnon Tselikas. Voss page 11 had ink and pen tests (Greek). (Minor note: Latin text used in the binding.) Book Provenance indications were ripped away.
Did M. S., as has been suggested, have an accomplice? I doubt the few available expert suspects would trust Smith nor he them. Not to deny as possible, though, that he may have practiced other writing and been critiqued by an expert or two, unaware of the real purpose. (Compare, in admittedly quite different and worse context, those who trained as pilots, only to crash planes).
M. S. of Philadelphia, if I remember, though I’ve lost the reference (anyone know?) deposited a “manufactured in the United States” 1958 near fair copy of his with a named Philadelphia bookdealer. Quite speculative: is that from whom he bought 1646 Voss?) Of course, not the final word. Corrections welcome.

Unknown said...

Just finished reading through the entire blog archive. Thanks for some great bedtime reading, Mark! Hopefully it won't be too long before the blogging machine is kicked back into gear again.

Katherine Jane Wright