This will be the last of my posts giving new “boxes” from the recently finished (and now sent to the publisher) edition of my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. This box tries to explain how there could be “forgeries” in the NT, that is, books whose authors claimed to be a famous person, knowing full well they were someone else. In the ancient world, these books were called “lies” (pseudoi) or “books inscribed with a lie” (pseudepigrapha). But why would a Christian author lie about who he was? How could he live with himself? To set up the box, I will first quote a paragraph from my book Forged, about the author of Ephesians, who claimed to be Paul (lying about it), even though he placed such a premium on the “truth.”
It is striking that in his instructions about the Christian “armor” the author of Ephesians also tells his readers to “fasten the belt of truth around your waist” (6:14). Truth was important for this writer. Early on he refers to the gospel as “the word of truth” (1:13). He later indicates that the “truth is in Jesus” and tells his readers to “speak the truth” to their neighbors (4:24-25). He also claims that the “fruit of the light” is found in “truth” (5:9). How ironic, then, that the author has deceived his readers about his own identity. The book was written pseudonymously in the name of Paul by someone who knew full well that he was not Paul. Falsely claiming to be an impeccable Christian authority, this advocate for truth has produced a pseudepigraphon, a “falsely inscribed writing.” At least that is what ancient critics would have called it, had they known the author was not Paul. And so, some Christians went into battle armed not with truth but with deception. Possibly they felt justified in lying about their identity. There was, after all, a lot at stake.
So, why would someone do that? Didn’t they know lying was wrong? Here’s my new box in my textbook that gives (in very short order) my own views of the matter.
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