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Secret Gospel Paperback – September, 1981

12 customer reviews

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Paperback, September, 1981
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--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


The Secret Gospel …invites a wide community of readers to...evaluate for themselves the provocative-and fundamental-questions it raises. --From the Foreword by Elaine Pagels, author, The Gnostic Gospels --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 157 pages
  • Publisher: Dawn Horse Pr; illustrated edition edition (September 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0913922552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0913922552
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,535,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Rob S on November 8, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is my second reading of this book and I'm pleased to say this edition has additional information of the where-abouts of the illicit manuscript. The book is about a short hand written copy taken from the Secret Gospel of Mark and found in a monastery library about the middle of the last century by Dr. Morton Smith. The Secret Gospel of Mark is hypothesized to be a fuller, more complete version of the Gospel of Mark that we have today. The author wrote two books on the topic. This book is the simplified version written for the lay person. It has part of one chapter that seems to fit in the the modern version of the Gospel of Mark. It talks about Jesus doing mystery rites in the Garden the night of his betrayal by Judas. With him was a young man who wore only a linen robe. The modern version of Mark actually mentions this person who escapes when the guards arrest Jesus. They grab his white linen robe and he runs off naked. (See Mark 14:52) It's a fascinating book that suggests the Jesus performed secret initiations similar to mystery religions. Unfortunately, there are a few modern scholars (like Bart Ehman) who have challenged the authenticity of this copy suggesting the Smith was a fraud. Like many zealous Christians, it they don't know what something is or how it fits into their theology, they will try to denounce and devalue it. They seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of Jesus being with a naked man wearing only a linen robe. It it too homoerotic for them. To this we can only shake our heads in shame. For NO ONE would have challenged the integrity of Morton Smiths scholarship while he was living, let alone suggest he was a fraud. Like most cowards they waited until he passed to voice any opposition. Personally, I love the book and would recommend it to anyone who is secure enough in their beliefs that it will not be shaken by something new.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By mirasreviews HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
"The Secret Gospel" is the short version of Morton Smith's discovery and subsequent interpretation of fragments of an alternative Markian gospel whose authenticity is hotly debated. The long version is "Clement of Alexandria and the Secret Gospel of Mark", written by Smith and published by Harvard University Press in 1973. Morton Smith was a distinguished classicist and biblical scholar who, while cataloging manuscripts in the library of the Mar Saba desert monastery near Jerusalem in 1958, claimed to have come upon a copy of a letter written by Clement to someone named Theodore that makes reference to a "secret" version of Mark in which Jesus taught a young man "the mystery of the Kingdom of God" in some sort of nocturnal initiation. Clement implies in the letter that his church made some use of this gospel, as did the "gnostic" Carpocratians.

After subjecting the text to stylistic analysis, consulting with other scholars, and comparing it to the canonical gospels, Smith lays out his conclusions. In short, he concludes that the "Secret Gospel" was written somewhat later than canonical Mark but is based on pre-Markian literature, an idea which he demonstrates in some detail by comparing John 10.40-11.54 to Mark-plus-Secret-Gospel and concluding that the two had a common source. Then Smith offers his interpretation of the significance of the secret ritual, which is where things get weird.

Through some convoluted logic, Smith decides that this initiation by Jesus is a baptismal rite. He speculates on its purpose, claiming that it must be close to Paul's conception of baptism. Since that occurred within a few years of Jesus' death, "we can reasonably suppose that the primary elements came from Jesus".
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By yours truly on April 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
I found The Secret Gospel to be an incredibly valuable resource in my understanding and appreciation for the Christian tradition. While I am new to the study of this tradition, I was nevertheless able to follow the logic of Morton Smith's research and conclusions easily, as long as I gave his arguments and communications my full attention. Smith is straightforward in communicating his findings and explanations, and was clearly rigorous in his detailed research of the documents he found at Mar Saba.

Elaine Pagels' foreword is useful in that it contextualizes the book from the scholarly point of view. She also summarizes, with eerie accuracy, the ongoing controversy that would surround this book:

While his scholarly credentials are impeccable, Professor Smith's theory-as he himself anticipated-has proven to be explosively controversial. Some critics, outraged at the view of Jesus he presents, have written potential attacks. Others, startled by his conclusions, are now reexamining the evidence, questioning, for example, the authenticity of The Secret Gospel, and debating his interpretation of its meaning. Among scholars, the debates his research has initiated are just beginning; no doubt they will continue for decades.

But she also has excellent advice, that I personally took as I read the book:

Meanwhile, The Secret Gospel invites a wide community of readers to share in the challenge of his discovery, and to evaluate for themselves the provocative-and fundamental-questions it raises.

This edition has a new Afterword that I found helpful.
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