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Video: Forgery in the New Testament

On Monday, March 21, 2011, I gave a lecture at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club of California, underwritten by The Bernard Osher Foundation. The moderator was Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus, Grace Cathedral. Below is a link to the lecture. I gave the lecture soon after my book Forged: Writing in the Name of God. Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are appeared. In that book I try to present, to a lay audience, the evidence that scholars have found compelling that not only are some books *outside* the New Testament written (falsely) in the names of the apostles (for example, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Paul, and so on: these were not really written by Peter, Thomas, or Paul, as everyone agrees) but also books written *inside* the New Testament. This does not apply to "anonymous" books, where an author does not provide his name (e.g., Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- the authors themselves do not say who they are, it was only later [...]

2020-04-11T17:19:22-04:00November 8th, 2013|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity, Video Media|

Not for the Faint of Heart (Authorship of Colossians)

As I was writing up my post yesterday on the evidence that speaks against Paul having written Colossians, it occurred to me (as I indicated at the time) that it might be instructive to show the difference between how I might present that case to a lay audience and how I might present it to fellow scholars. The following is how I cover the same material in Forgery and Counterforgery . (All of this is related to the larger thread I have going on just now on whether the Third Gospel was written by Luke the Gentile physician, traveling companion of Paul; see yesterday’s post on the connection. In my next post I’ll return to that thread and point out other problems with the “logic” that says Luke wrote the Gospel. This current post will not be to everyone’s taste. If not, just sample it – or spit it out!) ************************************************************************************ As with every instance of forgery, the case of Colossians is cumulative, involving multiple factors. None has proved more decisive over the past thirty [...]

Problems with Luke as the Author of Luke

In my previous post I gave the logic that can be adduced for thinking that the Third Gospel 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 medical terminology; therefore Luke the gentile physician was probably its author. Now, for a couple of posts or so, I’ll try to explain why, in my opinion, this logic is flawed. In this post and the next (at least) I’ll deal with a lynchpin of the argument, that we know that Luke the gentile physician was a travelling companion of Paul. [...]

Forgery and Counterforgery

Forgery and Counterforgery is the first comprehensive study of early Christian pseudepigrapha ever produced in English. In it, Ehrman argues that ancient critics–pagan, Jewish, and Christian–understood false... [button url="" target="_blank" size="small" style="teal grey" ]Learn More[/button]

2020-04-03T19:13:24-04:00November 14th, 2012|Book Discussions|

It Has Arrived! Forgery and Counterforgery in Early Christian Polemics.

I have rarely – ever? – been so pleased with the appearance of a publication in my life.   Last night when I got home from running some errands, a box was waiting for me, from Oxford University Press.   It had my ten author’s copies of Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics.  I’m very excited about it, like a kid who has just gotten a fantastic present.   In my opinion, this is the best book I’ve ever written, years in the making.  As I have said before on this blog, it is written for scholars, although a number of people have commented that it seems, from the quotations I’ve given, to be accessible to laypeople as well (normal people, as opposed to abnormal scholars).   I’ll say a bit more about it in the next post, for now, I thought I would simply give you a taste, by quoting the very first, opening, paragraphs (without the footnotes): *********************************************************************************************************************** Arguably the most distinctive feature of the early Christian literature is the degree [...]

2020-04-11T15:37:29-04:00November 13th, 2012|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity, Public Forum|

A Forger Who Was Caught. The Case of Salvian, Part 2

THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF MY PREVIOUS POST ON SALVIAN, THE ONE CHRISTIAN FORGER THAT WE KNOW WAS CAUGHT IN THE ACT. I INCLUDE THE TAIL END OF THE PREVIOUS POST AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS ONE FOR CONTEXT, BUT YOU MAY WANT TO REREAD THE WHOLE THING ITSELF. THIS, AGAIN, IS DRAWN FROM MY FORTHCOMING BOOK FORGERY AND COUNTERFORGERY. ************************************************************************************************************************ Given this confession of motivation, what Salvian claims next may seem a bit surprising, if not down-right duplicitous. Why did he choose the name Timothy in particular? Readers naturally took the name to refer to Paul’s Pastoral companion, hence Salonius’s distraught reaction. But in clear tension with his earlier assertion that an unknown person would not be accepted as an authoritative source, Salvian claims that he chose the name purely for of its symbolic associations. Just as the evangelist Luke wrote to “Theophilus” because he wrote “for the love of God,” so too the author of this treatise wrote as “Timothy,” that is, “for the honor of God.” In other words, he chose the [...]

2020-04-11T17:20:51-04:00August 11th, 2012|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

A Christian Forger Caught in the Acts

Next month I will be giving a keynote address at a conference dealing with ancient pseudepigrapha at the University of Laval, in Quebec City.  I have recently been discussing the topic (of ancient authors falsely claiming to be a famous person) on the blog in relation to the letter of James, and as you know, it was the subject of my monography Forgery and Counterforgery ten years ago, and my spin-off popular account Forged.   I haven't worked seriously on the problem since then. But now, because of this upcoming lecture, I'm having to think about it long and hard again, a decade later.  Lots of scholars simply don't (or can't?) believe that ancient people -- especially Christians, but others as well -- would lie about their identities.  It's not that these scholars doubt that there are lots and lots of pseudepigrapha out there, Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Christian.  There are.  But these scholars don't think that the authors were doing anything duplicitous. There are different ways scholars have made this argument, but the basic line [...]

Ancient Secretaries (Part 1)

I have received some comments and emails about my claims about Silvanus as a secretary (or rather, NOT as a secretary) for the book of 1 Peter, and realized it would help if I could give some more detail about what we know about secretaries in the ancient world. The following is from an excursus in my forthcoming Forgery and Counterforgery; it will come in two parts, the first today and the second, hopefully, tomorrow. If you've read my book Forged, the substance of what follows will be familiar; this is the slightly more whomped up version of what I discuss there. ************************************************************************************************************************ Now that we have explored six of the Deutero-Pauline epistles, we are in a position to consider the hypothesis widely invoked by advocates of authenticity to explain how a letter allegedly by an author should differ so radically from other writings he produced. The notion that early Christian authors used secretaries who altered the writing style and contributed to the contents of a writing– thereby creating the anomalies that arouse the critics‘ [...]

Forgery. Another Deceived Deceiver (Part 2)

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 [...]

Forgery. Another Deceived Deceiver (Part 1)

ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM MY FORTHCOMING SCHOLARLY DISCUSSION OF FORGERY AND COUNTERFORGERY, WHERE IN THE INTRODUCTION I CONTINUE MY ANECDOTES OF FORGERIES THAT CONDEMN FORGERIES AND DECEIVERS WHO GET DECEIVED, THIS TIME BY LOOKING AT A CHRISTIAN EXAMPLE (SEE MY EARLIER POST ON THE DUPED HERACLIDES) This ironic phenomenon has its rough parallels in the later Christian tradition. To begin with, we might look at a work universally recognized as pseudepigraphic, the late fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions, a so-called “church order” allegedly written by none other than the apostles of Jesus (hence its name), but in reality produced by someone simply claiming to be the apostolic band, living three hundred years after they had been laid to rest in their respective tombs. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. If you don't belong -- JOIN!! We will be considering other aspects of this text in a later chapter. For now it is enough to note that the book represents an edited composite of three earlier documents still extant independently, the third-century Didascalia [...]

Forgery and Deceived Deceivers

I mentioned in my previous blog that I am reading through the page proofs of my scholarly book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics. And I suggested that I might give a few extracts to give some idea of what the book looks like. Much of the book is hard hitting scholarship that only inveterate philologists could love (or like). I can give a taste in later posts, if anyone's interested. But I start off on a light note, in part to get people interested (even scholars have to be interested!). I open with the following anecdote. If you've read my popular book Forged, the final part will sound familiar. This is how I would (and do) do the same bit for a more scholarly audience. (I have not included the footnotes here) ************************************************************************************************************************ Heraclides Ponticus was one of the great literati of the classical age. As a young man from aristocratic roots he left his native Pontus to study philosophy in Athens under Plato, Speusippus, and eventually, while [...]

So Much For THAT Idea….

My plan over the next three weeks was to write the seven chapters of my Bible Introduction.   The best laid plans....   On the theme of "life sometimes interferes" I was presented yesterday, to my chagrin, with two tasks that require my attention, right away.  Both of them unpleasant.   Ugh. As I have indicated on this blog, I have a couple of books in the publication pipeline.  One is The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, which I am co-editing with my friend Michael Holmes (it's the second edition; the first edition came out in 1995 in honor of Bruce Metzger; it is being published by E. J. Brill in the Netherlands).   This book consists of a collection of essays on every major aspect of New Testament textual criticism, for scholars and their students who are already abreast of the basic issues in the field.   The other is my scholarly version of the forgery book, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics (being published by Oxford University Press). As fate [...]

2017-12-19T00:13:03-05:00July 29th, 2012|Bart’s Biography, Book Discussions, Public Forum|

Silvanus as Peter’s Secretary?

QUESTION: What do you make of the author's reference to a Silvanus in 1 Peter 5:12? Could it be that this really is Peter saying he used a secretary to write this letter? I know you said there is little to no evidence that people used secretaries, but what do you make of this reference to a Silvanus? RESPONSE: Yes, this is a question that I deal with in my book Forged, and that I deal with at yet greater length in the book coming out in the fall, Forgery and Counterforgery. Several points are important to make about the question, but first a bit of background. FOR THE REST OF THIS POST, log in as a Member. Click here for membership options. If you don't belong yet, JOIN!!                 Background.   Scholars have long noted that the book of 1 Peter is written in elegant Greek, and that it seems highly unlikely that an Aramaic-speaking fisherman of the lower classes (which Peter must have been), who is called “unlettered” (literally, “illiterate”) in Acts 4:13, [...]

2020-04-03T19:30:22-04:00July 28th, 2012|Catholic Epistles, Reader’s Questions|

Reflections on Books

I’m off to the airport in three hours, to spend the rest of the summer in London. As I think I mentioned before, Sarah is a Brit – grew up in London – and her family is all there. We have a flat in Wimbledon, and usually spend six weeks or so there during the summer, and sundry other times throughout the year. Sarah this year is teaching the “Duke in London” summer program, which is all theater: they study a play in class during the day, then go see it performed that evening. Really interesting and invigorating, but a *lot* of work (for Sarah). She’s been there for the past two weeks already. I have finished the eight chapters of my Bible Intro that deal with the Hebrew Bible; after this the book will include be a transitional chapter into the New Testament (dealing with Greco-Roman world, Judaism in the period, and so on), then five chapters on the NT, and a final chapter on the canon and text of both testaments. I hope [...]

2020-05-08T12:44:40-04:00July 16th, 2012|Book Discussions|

At the Beach (2): Reflecting on Books

One of my favorite parts of the beach (in addition to the walks, the eating, the drinking, the talking, the sleeping) is thinking about books. The novels I’m reading, the books I’m writing. The books I learn about from Sarah and Dale. What I pick up from these two is really something. Sarah in particular is a voracious reader; I’ve never met anyone or seen anything like it before. This week she is reading through the novels of Elizabeth Taylor (not the American actress! The British novelist, who wrote twelve, evidently amazing, novels). And the nice thing about Sarah is that I almost never can read a book she hasn’t read. This week I was devouring Vanity Fair. Oh yes, she was examined on it for her Alevels (back when she was, like 17, before heading off to read English at Oxford. And yes, she can still talk about it….) Among other things, since this beach holiday always comes at the end of the school year, I spend some time thinking back over what I’ve [...]

2020-05-27T16:26:19-04:00May 27th, 2012|Book Discussions, Reflections and Ruminations|
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