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A New Box on Why A (Christian) Author Would Lie About Who He Was

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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Why Would Christian Authors Write Forgeries?
New Boxes Related to Literary Forgery and the NT



  1. Avatar
    Matilda  November 3, 2014

    There are other words for it. It’s called “spin” or telling tall tales, or having a secret agenda. It’s not as harsh as calling it a lie. The British call it telling “porkies.” That’s kind of a cute way of saying it. None-the-less, religious lies are always wrong as I see it.
    I would not be so angry about religion if it had not been full of hidden agendas, hocus pocus, and basic non-sense.

    • Avatar
      simonelli  November 5, 2014

      Yes, Dr. Ehrman wrote “the author of Ephesians tells his readers to “fasten the belt of truth around your waist” (6:14).” To my way of thinking the author of Ephesian is urging the believers going into battle to protect themselves by putting on the belt of truth; in other words tell the way it is without fear or favor.
      Also Dr. Ehrman wrote “Truth was important for this writer. Early on he refers to the gospel as “the word of truth” (1:13).” I see nothing wrong with that; for the Gospel is in fact “the word of holiness” or truth.
      Dr. Ehrman continues “He later indicates that the “truth is in Jesus” and tells his readers to “speak the truth” to their neighbors (4:24-25).” Yes the truth is in Jesus: because we can only find truth or holiness in Jesus.
      Dr. Ehrman finds it hard to understand that the author of Ephesians also claims that the “fruit of the light” is found in “truth” (5:9).” So what is the “fruit of the light” well, light gives vision to our eyes, so we can move around safely, without stumbling, understanding is also a form of light for our mint to see, so we can act and speak with confidence about our faith.
      O have heard the saying: “there is nothing more dangerous on earth than the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Yes because if that gospel is ADHERED to, will transform you to be honest, to be compassionate, to be an impeccable moral person, to be without sin. Yes, history has shown that it is dangerous to have such a man in our midst.

      • Avatar
        Matilda  November 5, 2014

        No offense, but this sounds like the mumbo jumbo I heard in church. The” light”, the “truth”- all buzz words to make the myth sound like it has mysterious meaning. I shrugged off that non-sense long ago so don’t try to spew the same Bible talk and expect anyone to fall for it, least of all me!

  2. Avatar
    Jana  November 3, 2014

    But why did Ephesians lie about his identity? Was it to lend more voracity to his writing? … to be taken more seriously?

  3. David
    David  November 3, 2014

    According to Wikipedia, the “majority” of biblical scholars (yourself included) reject the Petrine authorship of 2nd Peter and, for some, 1st Peter as well. This is something acknowledged by Daniel Wallace, who, in spite of the consensus of the majority of NT scholars (according to Wikipedia), still maintains that Peter the apostle was the author. Why is that? Also, Bart, you have often stated in your books and videos that the majority of scholars support your views in regards to forgery in the scriptures, contradictions, etc. Have you ever considered providing some form of documentation to support that? Perhaps a list of names with quotes and credentials? Or, even a short book with quotes and commentary from this “majority” of scholars. I have Christian friends, and one in particular, that believe your views are the exception, rather than the rule. I disagree, but I have found it difficult to find any kind of statistical data to refer to, other than “most scholars say”….

    • Bart
      Bart  November 4, 2014

      It’s really difficult to give actual numbers. But here’s one indication. My textbook on the New Testament, which sets forth these views, is the most widely used book by NT scholars in the country. Presumably they use it because they agree with its approach and views and positions. The second most used textbook in the country is my *briefer* version of the same book ,where the same approach, views, and positions are set forth. So these are the views that are being taught most often. (Other textbooks that basically agree with these views are #3, #4, and #5)

  4. Avatar
    simonelli  November 3, 2014

    Dr. ehrman, people lie for many reasons, mostly they lie to gain an advantage, but “Truth” in God’s eyes is not only that which is contrary to falsehood, but it is also a state of existence, That is why Jesus could say “I am the Truth” because “Truth” is a state of unchanging holiness, the essence of God to which we, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ have become partakers. The truth is constructive and edifying.
    In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I Am the ‘Way’, the ‘Truth’, and the ‘Life’; no one comes to the Father, but through Me”. Yes!
    He is the “Way” because we must follow the footsteps of His earthly life = Repentance
    He is the “Truth” because He is the embodiment of unchanging holiness = God
    He is also the “Life” because He is the eternal Word = Eternal life
    On the other hand a lie is destructive, like the lie in Matthew 6:13 ,”And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Every one knows that God doesn’t lead anyone into temptation, that is the devil work. And in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us,” Here again every one knows that Jesus became a blessing for us. He accomplished salvation for mankind, so how he became a curse? Those lies try to destroy the character of God and try to cover-up the accomplished works of our Lord.

    • Avatar
      Matilda  November 4, 2014

      Not to be argumentative, but I for one didn’t ask for anyone to die for me. I can take responsibility for my own mess ups. I have nothing to repent for. The Jesus figure is just one of many scape-goat symbols. Christianity is a death cult with Jesus as the main course. And by-the-way, there is no devil. Humans need to learn to grow up and stop believing they can excuse their behavior by blaming boogey men, devils, demons, etc.

      • Avatar
        simonelli  November 5, 2014

        Matilda, you also din’t ask to be borne, I hope you are happy about that; sadly no everyone is. We have been given the gift of life on earth, we can enjoy this life as it is; making the most of the selfish opportunity that comes our way, and that is OK if you are content with that.
        But you are here in this forum, seeking to have your question answered, or are you just curious about this nonsense of eternal life through the death of a crucified man. Be honest with yourself, why do you want to know? And what is, or who is pushing you to investigate. The unbelievers considers the gospel foolishness; he doesn’t care one way or the other. On the other hand, the believers unbeknown to them are split into two groups: those for Him and those against Him.

        • Avatar
          Matilda  November 6, 2014

          What question? If I want answers that make sense I will study science. As for spiritual answers, they can be found in better ways than religion. Religion is a hindrance towards enlightenment as far as I am concerned. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are not real happy about being born and consider it a curse rather than a gift. Who can blame them when they are starving, deformed, diseased, etc. etc.
          I am investigating because I am a recovering Catholic. Bart and others have helped me come to terms with overcoming the bonds of dogma. I feel so much more free and open to the wonders of existence than ever before. Freedom from religion is a breath of fresh air.
          I don’t really care about an afterlife or no afterlife. If there is a God great, if not so what? As for Jesus, if he existed at all, he was only a man, no more no less. As for resurrection, once the human body is dead the party is over. Cells dies, the body decomposes- end of story! I am not for or against Jesus. I just cease to make a god out of him anymore. It’s ok. to do that despite what the Church says.

  5. Avatar
    fishician  November 4, 2014

    A related question: why would someone conceal the truth? If Matthew and John were appointed to testify of Jesus, then why, when they wrote their testimonies of Jesus, would they conceal their identities rather than boldly proclaiming they were disciples of and eyewitnesses of Jesus, his teachings, miracles, and resurrection? Yet the gospels named after them give no clue that they were written by such eyewitnesses. So we have writings falsely claiming to be written by apostles, while others who make no claim were falsely attributed to the apostles. And those latter ones made it into the NT. How bizarre.

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