Did Morton Smith Forge “Secret Mark”?


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Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Over fifty years ago, Columbia University professor Morton Smith discoverd a previously unknown letter from Clement of Alexandria, a second-century church father, which contained passages of a lost “secret” gospel of Mark. A debate over the authenticity of this document continues to this day.

Did Smith forge the famous Clement letter containing two passages from a secret and different copy of the Gospel of Mark? A number of scholars have concluded, on inadequate grounds in our view, that Smith was a forger. In a four-part treatment, including contributions by eminent New Testament scholars Helmut Koester and Charles Hedrick, BAR concluded that Smith, now dead, was innocent. BAR has also engaged a handwriting expert to compare the handwriting in which the Clement letter was written with Greek handwriting known to be Smith’s, as well as an eminent Greek paleographer to assess whether the handwriting of the Clement letter is in an authentic 18th-century Greek script.

Explore below Morton Smith’s translation of “Secret Mark,” expert handwriting analyses, responses to the handwriting analysis reports, and continuing debates over the authenticity of the document.



Translation of “Secret Mark”

Venetia Anastasopoulou’s 36-Page Handwrting Analysis

Peter Jeffery: Response to Handwriting Analysis

Venetia Anastasopoulou: Can a Document in Itself Reveal a Forgery?

Peter Jeffery: Additional Response to Handwriting Analysis

Scott Brown: My Thoughts on the Reports by Venetia Anastasopoulou

Allan J. Pantuck: Solving the Mysterion of Morton Smith and the Secret Gospel of Mark

Beyond Reasonable Doubt: A Response to Allan J. Pantuck

Agamemnon Tselikas’ Handwriting Analysis Report

Allan J. Pantuck: Response to Tselikas Handwriting Analysis

Agamemnon Tselikas: Response to Allan J. Pantuck


Stephen Carlson declined our invitation to respond.

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