A Handwriting Expert Weighs In
Did Morton Smith Forge ‘Secret Mark’?
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.*
Photo by Kallistos Dourvas
The controversial text that Smith discovered was a Greek manuscript written on the endpages of a 17th-century book. The apparently 18th-century handwriting recorded a copy of a previously unknown letter from Clement of Alexandria to someone named Theodore.
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. BAR has now done so.
Venetia Anastasopoulou is a prominent handwriting expert living in Athens who has frequently testified in Greek courts. BAR retained her to compare the handwriting in which the Clement letter was written with Greek handwriting known to be Smith’s. She is a member of the National Association of Document Examiners (U.S.A.) and the International Graphology Association (U.K.). She holds a Certificate in Forensic Sciences from the University of Lancashire (U.K.) and a diploma in Handwriting Analysis from the International Graphology Association (U.K.).
Anastasopoulou compares numerous letters, parts of letters and words in the Clement letter with Smith’s Greek handwriting in her 36-page report. We are offering the entire document here for those sufficiently familiar with Greek handwriting to understand and appreciate her examination.
Click here to download Venetia Anastasopoulou’s report.
continue (pdf version)