Southwest Missouri State University professor Charles Hedrick opens the discussion by setting the stage for us, as we asked him to do, without revealing his own belief in the authenticity of Secret Mark.
In 1958 Morton Smith, a 43-year-old Columbia University history professor, spent the summer looking for ancient manuscripts and handwritten entries in old printed books at monasteries in Turkey, Greece and the Holy Land. One of his destinations was the storied Greek Orthodox monastery of Mar Saba in the Judean wilderness, roughly a dozen miles southeast of Jerusalem.
Smith was no stranger to the place. Seventeen years earlier he had spent two months of seclusion there, fully participating in its meditative way of life. Day began in the isolated Byzantine structure with morning worship from midnight until 6:00 a.m., only to be resumed again in the afternoon from 1:30 to 3:00. Around 5:00 p.m. the monks observed evening prayers and then slept till midnight. “Between the services was silence—the silence of the desert, no voices, no sounds of animals, not even wind in the trees,” as Smith described it.1 It was a life of worship, meditation and spiritual reflection.