HERE’S THE SECOND HALF OF WHAT I STARTED TO POST YESTERDAY: THE IRONIES OF THE APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS (A FOURTH CENTURY BOOK CLAIMING TO BE WRITTEN BY THE APOSTLES THREE HUNDRED YEARS EARLIER ); DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE GREEK — IT MAKES SENSE WITHOUT READING IT. MY POINT IN THIS BIT IS THE IRONY OF IT ALL.
The alleged authors – the apostles of Christ, including Paul and James — claim that the books of the New Testament were theirs: ἡμέτερα δέ, τοῦτ’ ἔστι τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης (8.47.85). And so the author gives a list of which books those are, a list that includes all of the books that eventually became the New Testament, with the exception of the book of Revelation. Strikingly, after listing the Gospels and the letters of Paul, James, John, Jude, and Peter, the author indicates that the New Testament is also to include the two letters of Clement and, to cap it all off, the Apostolic Constitutions themselves. The list ends with “our Acts of the Apostles” αἱ Πράψεις ἡμῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων (8.47.85) – in other words, not just the letters that the authors had earlier produced, but also the account of their activities.
By naming 1 and 2 Clement as scriptural authorities – part of “our” New Testament – the alleged authors are establishing the authority of the bearer of their writing, Clement of Rome, companion of the apostles. Including their own writing, the Apostolic Constitutions, as Scripture is the natural corollary of the pseudepigraphic enterprise. If they wrote the other books of the New Testament, then surely their other writing – that is, the present one – is also sacred scripture. This is pseudepigraphy with chutzpah. The author is not just forging an apostolic writing: he is urging, in the name of the apostles, that the writing be deemed part of Scripture. At the same time, to some extent this author is simply making explicit what other forgers clearly desired implicitly. Whoever wrote the extant letter of Laodiceans, the letter of 3 Corinthians, and the Gospel of Peter clearly expected their readers to accept their books as authentically apostolic and thus, surely, in some sense Scriptural.
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