Strata
Handwriting Experts Weigh In on “Secret Mark”
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Did Columbia University professor Morton 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.a
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Oddly enough, despite the scores of articles and books that have been written on the subject, no one has bothered to consult a handwriting expert in the language in which the alleged forged letter is written: Greek. To Smith’s detractors, that was apparently unnecessary. According to critic Bart Ehrman, “With any skill at all, and a little practice,” it would be easy for Smith to learn to fake the 18th-century handwriting in which the Clement letter is written. Yet no one ever followed through by consulting a Greek handwriting expert.

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