Mark Three: Secret Mark?

Latest posts in our series on the Book of Mark, one of the weirdest and most popular books of all time.

Mark One

on Papyrus One

Mark Two

Why Mark?

and now:


Did Mark look like this? by Bronzino

Or like this?

or this? by Mantegna

Here we see the Mar Saba monastery in Israel, twelve miles outside Jerusalem:

Cool structure.  Would make a dope boutique hotel.

This is where Morton Smith supposedly found a

 previously unknown letter of Clement of Alexandria transcribed into the endpapers of a 17th-century printed edition of the works of Ignatius of Antioch

The letter, which would’ve been from like the year 200, says (I paraphrase) “hey there’s a more spiritual, weirder version of the Gospel of Mark floating around, heads up.”

Was there a “Secret Gospel Of Mark”?  Says Wiki:

Ron Cameron (1982) and Helmut Koester (1990) argued that Secret Mark preceded the canonical Mark, and that the canonical Mark is in fact an abbreviation of Secret Mark. This would explain the narrative discontinuity above. John Dominic Crossan (1985) has also been supportive of these views of Koester: “I consider that canonical Mark is a very deliberate revision of Secret Mark.”

An interesting question for sure.  As Wiki says:

The process of canonization of the New Testament was complex and lengthy.

The version I’m using is this one:

I don’t think the late J. B. will mind my excerpting his helpful introduction:

When J. B. talks about “the manuscript of Mark,” I’m not sure what he means.  Wiki tells me the oldest complete version is the Codex Vaticanus,

and the Codex Sinaiticus, which they found at St. Catherine’s Monastery:

which would also make a cool boutique hotel.  The Codex got taken to Russia, and then:

In 1933, the Soviet Union sold the codex to the British Museum for £100,000 raised by public subscription (worth £6.5 million in 2017)

You can read it if you want online.

The oldest known written scrap of Mark appears to be Papyrus 45:

which came from who knows where.  American-Anglo-Irish industrialist Chester Beatty, the “king of copper,” was mad for papyri apparently and bought tons of them from illegal dealers.

His first job in the mines earned him $2 per day as a ‘mucker’, clearing away rock and soil from mine tunnels.  He was quickly promoted to supervisor of the Kektonga Silver Mine.

Alfred Chester Beatty by Colin Colahan.
© Mrs. Monique Colahan.  From the Chester Beatty Library website.

Papyrus 45 is now in Chester’s library/museum in Dublin:

source: Wiki user Charles Curling

So, that’s how we get to Mark.


NEXT TIME in our series on Mark:

Translator J. B. Phillips, who started working on the New Testament in a bomb shelter during the London Blitz.

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