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The Gospel Hoax
Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark

By Stephen C. Carlson

The Gospel Hoax
Paperback, 170 pages $24.95
Published: 30th November 2005
ISBN: 9781932792485
Format: 8in x 5in

Subjects: All Biblical Studies, New Testament

Secret Mark first became known to modern scholarship in 1958 when a newly hired assistant professor at Columbia University in New York by the name of Morton Smith visited the monastery of Mar Saba near Jerusalem and photographed its fragments. Secret Mark was announced on the heels of many spectacular discoveries of ancient manuscripts in the Near East, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi gnostic corpus in the late 1940s, and promised to be just as revolutionary. Secret Mark presents what appears to be a valuable, albeit fragmentary, witness to early Christian traditions, traditions that might shed light on Jesus’s most intimate behavior. In this book, Stephen C. Carlson uses state of the art science to demonstrate that Secret Mark was an elaborate hoax created by Morton Smith. Carlson’s discussion places Smith’s trick alongside many other hoaxes before probing the reasons why so many scholars have been taken in by it.

Foreword by Larry W. Hurtado



1. The Revelation of Secret Mark

2. Uncovering Literary Fakes

3. The Modernity of the Mar Saba Manuscript

4. The Modernity of Theodore

5. The Modernity of Secret Mark

6. Morton Smith's Secret Uncovered

7. The Anatomy of an Academic Hoax

Appendix: Extracts from Smith's 1960 Catalog


Works Cited


A real-life “Da Vinci Code" detective story set in academia.

Publishers Weekly

A scholarly bombshell. Built on pains-taking research, without any shrillness in tone, Carlson's argument is clear and compelling. Scholars in the field of Christian Origins will have to reckon with it, and many will have to re-think some important matters about the Gospels and the historical Jesus. A wider public will find this a fascinating detective story.

—Larry W. Hurtado, Professor of New Testament Language, Literature & Theology, School of Divinity, New College, University of Edinburgh

The Gospel Hoax uncovers the clues and unmasks the perpetrator of a remarkable feat of deception. Fascinating, compelling and utterly convincing.

—Mark Goodacre, Associate Professor of New Testament, Department of Religion, Duke University.

Stephen C. Carlson is Partner in Ditthavong & Carlson (Fairfax, VA).

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 170 pages
 8in x 5in

  REL006220, REL070000
 Baylor University Press

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