Sorting by


A Major Forgery in the Hebrew Bible? Platinum Guest Post by Dennis Folds

I am pleased to publish this insightful and intriguing Platinum guest post by Dennis Folds, for all you fellow Platinum members.  Many of you are interested in Christian pseudepigrapha (= forgeries), especially those in the New Testament.  But what about the Old Testament?  Now *here* is a bold thesis!  Read it and remark! Remember: you too can submit a Platinum guest post.  It does not have to be sophisticated, learned, or novel.  Just write something you'd like to share with all of us, on anything at all connected to the blog and send it to me! ******************** Jeremiah Versus the Deuteronomist Forger   Dennis J. Folds, Ph.D. Given the interest in potential forgeries of NT books and other early Christian writings, I’d like to describe what may have been the most consequential forgery in the history of our Judeo-Christian faith:  the “discovery” of the long-lost book of the law of Moses, which purportedly contained the original covenant between YHWH and the Hebrews. The discovery is described in 2 Kings 22, during the renovation of the [...]

2022-08-08T12:55:40-04:00August 8th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament|

My book: Literary Forgery and Counterforgery in Early Christianity!

I have been posting all ten of my April 18 posts from previous years in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of the blog on April 18 of *this*  year.  Here now is a post from 2018 that focused on a book I had written years before that!  The book I've always thought was my best piece of scholarship. Enjoy! ****************************** I am in Houston for a few days, giving talks at Rice University on the use of literary forgery in early Christianity.  To prepare for the talks I decided to read through my 2013 book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics.  Of all the books I’ve written, I am proudest of this one.  It is the very best I can do in terms of real scholarship.   I don’t believe I’ve talked about it much on the blog, since it’s not a book for general audiences.  But I thought it might be worthwhile to say something about it in a post or two, and there’s no better way to do [...]

2022-06-12T12:06:34-04:00June 18th, 2022|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

And Did Paul Write 2 Thessalonians?

In my last post I discussed whether Paul wrote the letter of Ephesians, whose author claims to be Paul, and explained why scholars widely think that in fact it was someone else.  I discuss all the Pauline "forgeries" of early Christianity (including the six in the New Testament) in my book Forged.  Here I thought it might be useful to consider a second example that involves a different set of problems: the "Second letter to the Thessalonians."  Again, this is taken from my book Forged (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2012). ****************************** As a conservative evangelical Christian in my late teens and early twenties, there were few things I was more certain of, religiously, than the fact that Jesus was soon to return from heaven to take me and my fellow believers out of the world, at the “rapture” before the final tribulation came.   We read all sorts of books that supported our view.  Few people today realize that the best-selling book in English in the 1970s, apart from the Bible, was The Late Great Planet Earth written [...]

2022-05-31T11:07:16-04:00June 11th, 2022|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

Did Paul Write “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians”?

Here's an important question I received recently from a blog member: Someone told me that “I should never listen to you” because you say Paul did not write six letters of the New Testament, even though the letters start with the claim he did:  "Paul, an Apostle of Christ to the Church at ….."  This person's main issue was: what is the evidence Paul did not write Ephesians? Your thoughts. Response This is an issue I dealt with directly in my book Forged: Why The Biblical Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2012).  Here's what I say there.  (If you are interested in the hard-core academic and detailed discussion of the evidence, I have a much fuller discussion in my book Forgery and Counterforgery) ****************************** When I was teaching at Rutgers in the mid 1980s, I regularly offered a course on the life and teachings of Paul.  One of the textbooks for the course was a book on Paul by a conservative British scholar named F. F. Bruce.[1]  I used the [...]

Young Jesus with the Brahmins in India!

In my last post I talked about a humorous Gospel forgery by a modern scholar.  There are a number of other forgeries of Gospels done in (relatively) modern times -- especially in the nineteenth century -- which were not particularly risible but were far more successful.  I still get asked about them today, especially by people who don't know what to think about them or, even more, people who assure me they are true. I talk about them in the last chapter of my book Forged (HarperOne, 2011).   Here's one of the most successful, as I discuss there. ****************************** One of the most widely disseminated modern forgeries is called The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ.[1]  From this account we learn that Jesus went to India during his formative teen years, the “lost years” before his public ministry, and there learned the secrets of the East.  The book made a big splash when it appeared in English in 1926; but as it turns out, it had already been exposed as a fraud more than thirty years [...]

A Humorous Modern Gospel Forgery

In a previous post I gave the introduction to my book about ancient forgery, Forged, written for a general audience.  Posting it reminded me of a modern forgery that was done by a bona fide scholar -- of a Gospel text!  I heard the story numerous times because the fraud was exposed by my own teacher, Bruce Metzger.   I think the first time I wrote about the story was in my book Lost Christianities (Oxford University Press, 2003).  Here is what I said there: ****************************** Some forgeries have been perpetrated in modern times, of direct relevance to our current study of early Christian apocrypha.  One might think that in our day and age, no one would be so deceitful as to try and pawn off any first hand accounts of Jesus as authentic.  But in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Strange Gospels appear regularly, if you know where to look for them.[1]  Often these record incidents in the “lost years” of Jesus – e.g., accounts of Jesus as a child or a young [...]

Forgery for a Scholarly Audience

I have been doing a few posts on the difference between popular writing (for a trade book) and scholarly writing (for an academic book).  In my last post I reproduced the introduction to my book Forged: Why The Biblical Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are (popular book published by HarperOne); here, by way of contrast, is the introduction to Forgery and Counterfortery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (academic book by Oxford University Press).  Both the title and the opening paragraphs are give-aways that this is not meant for most readers, even if those who are interested can certainly follow it and get a lot out of it.  It ain't quantum mechanics. ****************************** Arguably the most distinctive feature of the early Christian literature is the degree to which it was forged.[1]   Even though the early Christians were devoted to the truth– or so their writings consistently claimed – and even though “authoritative” literature played a virtually unparalleled role in their individual and communal lives, the orthonymous output of the early Christians was [...]

2022-03-04T13:08:06-05:00March 1st, 2022|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

Forgery for a General Audience

Last week I tried to show the contrast between my trade books for general audiences and my academic books for scholars, by posting the very beginning of my book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster, a tradebook, 2020) and the beginning of my book Jouneys to Heaven and Hell in the Early Christian Tradition (Yale University, due out April 5 2022; a scholarly book).  The general topics are similar, as you can see by the titles, but they are not actually about the same thing.  And the level of discourse is different. So too with my books on forgery -- I wrote one for a general audience (Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible Authors are Not Who We Think They Are  Harper San Francisco, 2011) and the other for academics (Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in the Early Christian Tradition, Oxford University Press, 2013).  In this case the differences are more obvious, I think, from both the titles and the openings. Here is how [...]

2022-02-14T17:57:53-05:00February 27th, 2022|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

Did Some *One* Forge the Writings of “John”? Guest Post by Hugo Mendez

Here my colleague Hugo Mendez wraps up his discussion of the writings of "John" -- the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John -- and he does so with a BANG.  I hope you can see both the quality and significance of these conclusions.  This is very serious and persuasive scholarship put at a level that even non-scholars can understand, with huge implications for understanding four of the important writings of the New Testament but also for rethinking questions of authorship of the early Christian writings and the history of our earliest Christian communities.  It's easy for scholars to see these implications (mainly because the conclusions he reaches are contrary to what most critical scholars actually teach their students all the time), which is why Hugo has stirred up a bit of a hornets' nest.  I hope it's possible for you to both appreciate and enjoy the argument as well. There is only one point on which he and I probably disagree, and it has to do with the authorship of the [...]

Problems with Thinking the “Letters of John” in the NT are Forgeries? Guest Post: Hugo Mendez

This thread of posts we have been having by Hugo Mendez on the writings of "John" in the New Testament has been unusually stimulating and in the world of scholarship, controversial.  If you haven't followed the thread, just look at the four that have already been posted starting two weeks ago.  If he were to argue that 1 Timothy was not really written by Paul, but someone claiming to be Paul (i.e., that it was a "forgery"), not a single New Testament scholar in the country would raise an eyebrow.  But to claim the letters of John are forgeries?  Yikes -- now *that* is something you don't hear every day.  But can the claim be sustained?  Here Hugo answers some of the objections others might raise. What do you think?  Convinced?              NOTE: most posts on the blog are for members only.  This one is open to anyone who wants to see it.  Wanna see this kind of post five times each and every week, going back eight years?  Join [...]

2020-05-18T15:13:23-04:00May 18th, 2020|Catholic Epistles, Forgery in Antiquity|

Are the Gospel and Epistles of John *Forgeries*?? Guest Post by Hugo Mendez

Whoa! Forgeries? That seems a bit extreme! Right? Forgeries??? Hugo Mendez continues his discussion, and I have to say, it's pretty convincing. He and I may disagree on a couple of things about the Gospel of John -- I haven't decided yet :-) -- but on the epistles I'm gettin' there and am open to persuasion on the entire case. What do you think? The hardest part for most of us is preventing the knee that is jerking from controlling our brain that is judging. So read what he has to say, ponder it, and see what you think -- no matter how out of control the knee is. And if you see flaws in what he's saying, free to tell him (and me, and everyone else!) why. Here's his fourth post. ***************************************************** The Johannine Texts as Literary Forgeries The primary reason why scholars believe a “Johannine community” once existed is that we possess not only a Johannine Gospel (John) but also three Johannine Epistles/Letters (1, 2, and 3 John). Those letters seem to actually [...]

2020-05-13T15:34:06-04:00May 12th, 2020|Catholic Epistles, Forgery in Antiquity|

Did Paul Write Colossians? According to Most Scholars No – Paul did Not Write Colossians

Did Paul write Colossians? Asking and answering questions like this every now and then is useful on the blog to shift gears away from explaining at a more popular level what scholars have come to think -  to showing how scholars make their arguments to one *another*.  I don't want to do this a lot, but it seems that it can be helpful at times, just so blog readers can get a bit of a sense. Right now I'm in them middle of a thread on whether the author of Luke was really "Luke the gentile physician," one of Paul's traveling companions.  The only reason for thinking such a person even existed (a gentile doctor named Luke) is that he is mentioned by Paul in Colossians. In my previous post I explained why the majority of critical scholars don't think Paul actually wrote Colossians (so that the historical Paul does *not* mention this person). The post was written for a general audience, and a number of people raised questions about it.  So here is how [...]

Problems with Thinking That Luke Wrote Luke (and Acts)

I continue now with my discussion of whether one of Paul's traveling companions wrote the account of his life in the book of Acts, and thus, by association, the Gospel of Luke.  It turns out to be a really sticky problem -- one of those that can't be solved simply by looking at a couple of verses and applying some basic logic. In my previous post I gave the logic that is typically adduced for thinking that the Luke was probably written by Luke, the gentile physician who was a companion of Paul for part of his missionary journeys. The short story, in sum: the author of Luke also wrote the book of Acts; the book of Acts in four places talks about what “we” (companions with Paul) were doing; both books were therefore written by one of Paul’s companions; Acts and Luke appear to have a gentile bias; only three of Paul’s companions were known to be gentiles (Colossians 4:7-14); Luke there is a gentile physician; Luke-Acts appears to have an enhanced interest in [...]

Is It Ever Right to Lie? Or Was It? Even in Early Christianity? The Relevance for Forgery.

Is it ever morally acceptable – even desirable – to tell a bald-faced lie?  That was probably a topic covered in your Philosophy 101 course.  At a historian, I’m interested in the question from an ancient perspective.  What did people in antiquity think about it?  In particular Christians.  Did they think – based on the Ten Commandments, say, or the teachings of Jesus, that a person should never lie?  Or were they quite lax on the matter?  Or something in between? I was actually a bit surprised to learn the answer to the question.  And as you might expect, the answer is complicated.  My original interest in the issue had to do with forgery.  A forger claims to be someone famous, knowing full well he is someone else.  That’s a lie, that is, it is a falsehood told intentionally.   How did forgers justify that?  It turns out, there appear to be answers. This is how I dealt with the matter in my lecture on forgery given at the conference in Quebec a couple of weeks [...]

A Recent Argument that Ancient Pseudepigraphy Was NOT Deceptive (or Meant to Be)

I continue now with the lecture I gave on "forgery" in the ancient world, delivered at a conference in Quebec a couple of weeks ago.  I had planned for this to be the last post, but I will have one more after this, the conclusion of my lecture where I deal with the ancient ethics of lying.  In this one I talk about a brilliant recent attempt to argue that it was not (always) a deceitful practice to claim to be a famous person when writing a work in antiquity.   ************************************************************** One of the most recent erudite and impressive attempts to defend at least one group of ancient pseudepigraphers comes in the study I mentioned earlier by Irene Peirano, a classicist at Yale, in her published Harvard dissertation, The Rhetoric of the Roman Fake: Latin Pseudepigrapha in Context.   Most of this important book provides detailed analyses of highly literary Roman pseudepigrapha, including pseudo-Virgil.  But she begins with a defense of her view that such works do not involve intentional deceptions but self-conscious “imitations” of [...]

2020-04-11T17:22:48-04:00September 24th, 2019|Forgery in Antiquity, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|

What Motivated Some Ancient Authors to Lie About Themselves?

I return now to my lecture on ancient Pseudepigraphy, the practice of writing a book falsely claiming to be someone else, a famous person.  I have been arguing that even in the ancient world this was considered to be a form of lying, the use of literary deceit, and authors who were detected doing it were outed and, if any moral judgment was passed, condemned for it.  Today we would call it “forgery,” and the ancient discussions of it were similarly negative.   Here is where I pick up in the lecture, part 3 of my 4 posts.  (I think one of my most important points comes half way through, where I explain the key difference between “intention” and “motivation” – i.e., what we intend to do and what motivates us to do so.   ***************************************************   One could ask whether anyone on record in antiquity ever condoned the practice of pseudepigraphy.  To my knowledge, there is only one possible trace of approval, in a single sentence of the late antique neo-Platonist Iamblichus, who does say, [...]

2020-05-25T13:23:02-04:00September 23rd, 2019|Forgery in Antiquity, Greco-Roman Religions and Culture|

How Many Books in the New Testament Were Forged?

In response to the lecture on ancient practices of pseudepigraphy (writing in the name of a famous person when, alas, you are actually someone else), I received this important question, getting to the very basics – the heart and soul of the issue for students of early Christianity. QUESTION: Dr. Ehrman, I know you have published and spoken on the topic, but would you mind sharing which NT books are pseudepigraphical? RESPONSE Yes indeed, one of the reasons I’m so interested in this topic is that the use of pseudepigraphy, what today we would call “forgery,” was so much more widespread in antiquity than today, probably because there were far fewer people who were literate in the first place and so far fewer experts who could uncover a forgery; and those who could, of course, didn’t have our modern methods of analysis and technologies of data retrieval. It was very common in the Christian world as well.  Before answering the question directly at the end of this post, let me just say something about how [...]

Were Ancient Readers Interested in Detecting Forgeries?

I continue now with my lecture this past week on whether ancient readers and writers considered pseudepigraphic writing – in which an author claimed to be someone else (always someone famous) – was seen as deceitful, a kind of literary lie, and is therefore appropriately, in an ancient context, appropriately considered by thos of us today, “forgery.”  This is Part 2 of 4. ******************************************************** I do not need to give an extensive account of all the instances of ancient Echtheitskritik (= scholarly attempt to determine if a work is authentic) found throughout the surviving literature: full accounts are readily available in any of the lengthy monographs.  To be sure, some recent scholars have claimed it was a rare discourse.  But maybe abundance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  I myself have always been struck by how extensive the discourse of authenticity is, going back in some sense to Herodotus and becoming a focus of interest for some authors, especially critics and biographers such as (the Roman medical writer of the second century) [...]

My Lecture in Quebec: Did Ancient Authors Try To Deceive Their Readers?

I have decided to go ahead and post the address I gave last week to an academic conference in Quebec on "Pseudepigraphy" in the ancient world.  If you're not familiar with the term (why would you be??) it refers to a book written by an author who falsely claims to be someone else (like if I wrote a book and claimed to be Stephen King) (which maybe I should do....).   Most scholars seem to think this was an acceptable practice in the ancient world.  I don't.  My lecture was meant to show why. This will take about four posts.  Here's the beginning of the lecture (it came as the keynote at the end of two days of meetings/papers).  In the post itself I have translated the foreign language terms I use. *************************************************************************************** Over the past three days we have enjoyed a wide range of papers on numerous important texts, specific instantiations of ancient pseudepigraphy.  In this final address I will not be discussing a specific text but rather the broader phenomenon of pseudepigraphy itself, with [...]

My Two Books on Forgery

In a couple of weeks I will be going to Quebec City to deliver a keynote address for a scholarly conference on Pseudepigraphy in Antiquity; most of the presenters will be giving papers in French (hopefully we'll have written versions for those of us who can't pick up the nuances well orally), mine will be in English.  I'll be saying more about it anon on the blog -- the work on the paper is getting me back into the question of ancient forgery, the practice of writing a book falsely claiming to be some other [famous] person, and whether it was generally seen as a deceitful practice.  I'm firmly convinced it was -- other scholars in the field refuse to think so -- and whether "forgery" is the right term for it or is too loaded. In any event, I haven't worked rigorously in this field for ten years, and so am catching up in my reading.  As it turns out, today on the blog I was going to post on the *second* time in [...]

2020-04-11T15:49:41-04:00August 26th, 2019|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|
Go to Top