Inventing the Past: Michael Broyde and Morton Smith

The Jewish Channel's Steven I. Weiss continued his outstanding investigative reporting with a new story on Rabbi Michael Broyde of Emory University, "Investigation Reveals Additional Questionable Identity With Connections to Broyde’s Scholarship". It now appears certain that Broyde invented letters by two imaginary rabbis to support his opinions on religious matters. Weiss also found that an 83 page article published by Broyde in the journal Tradition was bolstered in part by evidence from Broyde's manufactured authorities and was published with subventions funded by Emory and the Templeton Foundation.

The Broyde matter has reminded us of Morton Smith, another professor at a major university who went to great lengths to invent a religious letter to boost his reputation and his scholarly agenda.

Wikipedia summarizes the Smith matter in an article that starts, "Morton Smith (May 29, 1915 – July 11, 1991) was an American professor of ancient history at Columbia University. He is best known for his controversial discovery of the Mar Saba letter, a letter attributed to Clement of Alexandria containing excerpts from a Secret Gospel of Mark, during a visit to the monastery at Mar Saba in 1958."

Along with many other professors of religion, we believe that Smith's discovery was an intricate hoax that he perpetrated out of some unknown and twisted scholarly motives. Smith was quite clever in committing and defending his deception. And there remain a few scholars who still accept the authenticity of Smith's find.

Weiss now has proven conclusively in his reporting that Broyde committed equally intricate academic hoaxes. In our view though Broyde's hoaxes are far less clever and dramatic than Smith's.

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