Distortion of the Scribal Hand in the Images of Clement’s Letter to Theodore

in Vigiliae Christianae
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This article discusses Morton Smith’s famous manuscript find, Clement’s Letter to Theodore (including the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark), and critically assesses Stephen C. Carlson’s study of its handwriting (2005). Carlson’s analysis is found to be wanting due to line screen distortion introduced by the halftone reproduction process in the images he used. We conclude that the script in the manuscript of Clement’s Letter to Theodore lacks all and any kind of “signs of forgery”.

Vigiliae Christianae

A Review of Early Christian Life and Language




G.G. Stroumsa, “Comments on Charles Hedrick’s Article: A Testimony”, Journal of Early Christian Studies 11 (2003) 147-153.


C.W. Hedrick and N. Olympiou, “Secret Mark: New Photographs, New Witnesses”, The Fourth R 13 (2000) 3-16.


T.S. Paananen, “From Stalemate to Deadlock: Clement’s Letter to Theodore in Recent Scholarship”, Currents in Biblical Research 11 (2012) 87-125.


P. Foster, “Books of the Month: Secret Mark is no Secret Anymore—Secret Mark: Uncovering a Hoax”, Expository Times 117 (2005) 64-68; M.J. Kruger, “Book Reviews: The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark. By Stephen C. Carlson”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49 (2006) 422-424; C. Tuckett, “Review: The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark. By Stephen C. Carlson”, Journal of Theological Studies 58 (2007) 193-195. For more in-depth treatment of Carlson’s reception, consult Paananen, “From Stalemate to Deadlock”, 9-10.


Biermann, Handbook of Pulping and Papermaking, 469; Pettersson, Visual information, 328-329.


Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, 449, 451, 453.


Hedrick and Olympiou, “Secret Mark”, 3-16.


Terras, “Artefacts and Errors”, 53.


Carlson, The Gospel Hoax, 28.


V. Anastasopoulou, “Experts Report Handwriting Examination”, Biblical Archaeology Review 36 (2010) 9, http://www.bib-arch.org/pdf/secret-mark-analysis.pdf. We asked Anastasopoulou for feedback on an early draft of this article. Regarding our study of the line screen distortion, she said: “I got the answer to my questions about Carlson’s findings which I could not see”; personal communication.



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