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My Favorite Anecdote about Jesus and the Afterlife: Teeth Will Be Provided!

I was thinking (I'm always thinking) about Jesus and the afterlife, and suddenly my favorite rather humorous anecdote occurred, which involves a real moment in (relatively) modern scholarship.  I tried to find where I had written about it in one of my books: I was sure I *had* done so, but I couldn't find anyplace where I had.  If I haven't, I may include it in the next one.  But I did find that I made a post of it on the blog four years ago.  Here it is! **************************************************************** I think it’s time for a break from the hard-hitting discussions for something a bit different and humorous.  And so I have an anecdote to tell about a passage that I quoted in one of my earlier posts from Matthew, where Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the [...]

Recent Manuscript Discoveries: A Blast from the Past

As we are nearing the five-year anniversary of the Blog, I have been looking back over some past postings, and this one caught my eye, from 3/30/13 (*four* years ago....).   It's still of interest.  Two things to say about it: "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" is now recognized by everyone to be a modern forgery (it has been proved) (see, e.g.,; and the fragment of Mark's Gospel allegedly from the first century has STILL not been published!   Here is my original post on the two: ************************************************************************ As I am taking a break from my Christological posts for a couple of days, I’ve received several inquiries about other things, including the newsworthy manuscript discoveries announced this past year: what has happened to them? Specifically, what about that Gospel of Jesus’ Wife that was named, announced, and published by Karen King back in September, and what about the first-century manuscript of the Gospel of Mark that Dan Wallace announced but would tell us nothing about in the debate that he had with me in Chapel [...]

2020-04-03T02:30:20-04:00March 31st, 2017|Christian Apocrypha, New Testament Manuscripts|

Why Did We Get a New Testament?

In my past couple of posts I’ve talked about how the canon of the Hebrew Bible was formed.  That raises the obvious corollary of how the canon of the New Testament was formed.  Who decided we should have the twenty-seven books we do?  Why these books and not others?  Why were any books chosen at all?  When were these decisions made?  And what criteria were used to make the decisions? To my surprise, I haven’t talked much about the process on the blog over the years.  So here I will devote two posts to the issue.   I have written at greater length about the matter in several of my books, especially Lost Christianities.  Here is the most direct and to the point discussion that I provide in my textbook The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction. ********************************************************** THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT We are much better informed about the formation of the canon of the New Testament, in no small part because we have the writings of later church fathers who explicitly discuss the [...]

Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: January 16, 2016

  It is time for the weekly mailbag.  This week there are only two questions, but the first has two parts: why (many) Christians are so pro-Israel and how can they be pro-Jewish and still worship Jesus.  The second question involves how we know which letters of Paul were actually written by him.  If you would like me to address any question you have, just add a comment here or at any other time on the blog, or send me an email ********************************************************************** QUESTION:  Why are Christians so Pro Israel? Seems like to me if they agree with Judaism they couldn't be a Christian. Because of the first commandment. RESPONSE:   I’ll answer the second part of the question first.   What the reader is saying (I think) is that since the first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me,” then Christians cannot be pro-Jewish because they also worship Jesus – therefore two gods.   I have two responses to that. The first is that the commandment is *not* that:  “You must believe that I [...]

Fifty Ways to Forge a Gospel

    Last month I attended a small conference on the early Christian apocrypha (that is, the Gospels, epistles, Acts, and Apocalypses from early Christianity that were not accepted into the canon of Scripture) at York University in Toronto.   The special topic for the conference was the use of forgery in early Christianity, and I was asked to give the keynote address. This is a topic, of course, I have been long interested in.   I spent several years working on my (rather long) scholarly monograph on the topic: Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics; and in the process or writing that book for fellow academics, I wrote a shorter and simpler account for popular audiences: Forged:  Writing in the Name of God.  Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Among other things, in my talk I stressed that people in the ancient world considered forgery to be an act of literary deceit, a form of lying.  I really don’t think there should be much question [...]

2020-04-11T16:03:21-04:00November 22nd, 2015|Forgery in Antiquity, Public Forum|

On Falsification and Forgery

On Friday I will be giving a talk at a symposium at York University in Toronto that will be focusing on the use of forgery in the early Christian apocrypha, sponsored by Tony Burke of York U. and Brent Landau at the University of Texas.  Website is here:  I thought it might be interesting to excerpt a portion of my talk here, as it covers some ground that I recently have gone over on the blog, but from a different perspective.  (More on the bloody sweat!  But in relation to early Christian practices of literary deception.)  In any event.  Here is a portion of what I’m planning to say. ***************************************************   I first became interested in the field of apocrypha and early Christian literary forgery about 25 years ago, when I was principally obsessed with New Testament textual criticism.  Almost everyone else at the time who was also obsessed with the manuscript tradition of the New Testament was principally obsessed with one question only:  how do we establish the original text of the New [...]

Back to the Forgery of the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife

Some three years ago now I discussed in several posts the newly "discovered" text called "The Gospel of Jesus' Wife" (just search for "wife" and you'll find the posts).  A new development has occurred that makes it almost certain that this text is a modern forgery, done sometime in the last 20 years.  The evidence has been uncovered by Andrew Bernhard, author of Other Early Christian Gospels, and who was one of the first to establish other grounds for seeing the text as something quite fishy, and who has posted several times on the matter on Mark Goodacre's blog (as Mark informed me a couple of nights ago at a reading group).   I asked Andrew to come up with an explanation of the new evidence of foul-play (either by the person who gave the document to Harvard Professor Karen King or by the person who gave it to that other person).  I am very grateful to him for having done so.  Here is what he says: *********************************************************************************************** Confirmation that the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife [...]

2020-11-22T14:49:09-05:00September 10th, 2015|Historical Jesus, Religion in the News|

Google Cambridge Lecture on Forged

On April 7, 2011, I visited the Google Cambridge l in Cambridge, MA to discuss my book Forged. In my talk I explain how ancient writers sometimes falsely claimed to be a famous person in order to encourage people to read their books.   This practice of "literary forgery" was relatively common in the ancient world, but it was also widely condemned.  In my book I focus on instances of this practice in early Christianity -- some of them appearing within the New Testament. Please adjust gear icon for high-definition.

My Forgery Seminar (Syllabus)

            The academic semester, alas, has begun, as of this past Wednesday.   As usual, I’ll be teaching two courses.   My undergraduate class, as is true every spring, is “Introduction to the New Testament.”   My PhD seminar, this term, is “Literary Forgery in the Early Christian Tradition.”   I’ve taught this class twice before, but now I have my book (Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literacy Deceit in Early Christian Polemics) to structure the course.  I’ve never had one of my books as the focus of a PhD seminar, but there’s really nothing else out there that can be used.  The first time I taught the class I used Wolfgang Speyer’s classic, Die literarische Fälschung im heidnischen und christlichen Altertum as the main text.  It, obviously, is in German.  The students were not thrilled.  Or convinced that it was a good idea.  But their German certainly got better.  So even though there’s a ton of reading this term, I won’t be entertaining any complaints! Here’s this semester’s syllabus for the course, for your reading pleasure.   [...]

2020-11-28T21:33:49-05:00January 10th, 2015|Forgery in Antiquity, Teaching Christianity|

2 Thessalonians as a Forgery: The Theological Argument

I have decided, you may be glad to learn, that this will be my last post giving the reasons that scholars widely consider 2 Thessalonians not to be written by Paul, even though it claims to be written by Paul.   In order to make this the last post, I have had to make it unusually long.   Again, the point is both to show why scholars think what they do and to show the level at which they have to make their arguments, as opposed to the simple summary that I provide in my trade book Forged.   This is the same argument that I make there (the only one I make!) only it is given in the length and depth that I have directed it to scholars.  This is, once more, taken from my monograph Forgery and Counterforgery.  In it, by the way, I answer many of the objections readers have been raising to my view that 2 Thessalonians is forged. ******************************************************************* The Theology of 2 Thessalonians As recognized already by J. E. Chr. Schmidt over [...]

2020-04-11T16:02:40-04:00December 23rd, 2014|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

The Writing Style of 2 Thessalonians

In my previous two posts I started giving the scholarly argument against the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians – that is the argument that even though the letter claims to be written by Paul, it was in fact written by someone else who wanted you, the reader, to think it was written by Paul.   In this post I continue that discussion, turning now to the question of the writing style of the letter.   Once again, this is taken from my scholarly study, Forgery and Counterforgery.   (After this there will be only one more post on the thread!) I ended my previous post by pointing out that 2 Thessalonians has taken words and phrases from 1 Thessalonians in order to make it sound authentic, and even borrowed the structure of that earlier letter.  I concluded with these words: This is not how Paul wrote any of his other letters, by replicating the structure (to this degree) and taking over the vocabulary and even sentences of an earlier letter he wrote. But it is no stretch to imagine [...]

2020-04-12T13:16:42-04:00December 22nd, 2014|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

Is 2 Thessalonians Based on 1 Thessalonians?

In my previous post I began giving the scholarly version of why 2 Thessalonians is often considered to be non-Pauline – that is, to be forged in the name of Paul by someone wanting you to think he was Paul even though he was someone else.   This discussion is taken from my book Forgery and Counterforgery.   Now that I have given a (very) brief sketch of the history of the scholarship on this problem (the previous post) I can begin to discuss the actual evidence.  This is where the discussion gets a bit harder to follow, both because of the level of the assumptions and because I have to use a lot of Greek.  I’ve translated most of the Greek words/phrases here so you can follow easily. ******************************************************* 2 Thessalonians as a Forgery One reason the case for the inauthenticity of 2 Thessalonians has occasionally seemed wanting, even to some very fine scholars, is that critics have often resorted to a shotgun approach, citing every possible argument, good or bad, in support of their position. [...]

2020-04-11T17:24:16-04:00December 20th, 2014|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

2 Thessalonians: The History of the Discussion

In the previous two posts I began to answer why scholars think that some of the letters that go under Paul’s name were not actually written by him.  I have focused on the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, which claims to be written by Paul but appears to have been written instead by someone else who wanted his readers to *think* he was Paul.  In those two posts I recounted what I said about the matter in my trade book, written for a lay audience, Forged: Writing in the Name of God – Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. In the next several posts I will show how I address the same question for scholars, in my scholarly monograph, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics.   I thought this would be worth doing for two reasons.  First, I’d like you to know – if you’re interested – what the full reasoning behind the common critical view of 2 Thessalonians is, that is, what the really [...]

2020-04-11T17:14:20-04:00December 19th, 2014|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

The Inauthenticity of 2 Thessalonians: The Simple Reason

In my previous post I started to talk about why scholars recognize that 2 Thessalonians is (or appears to be) by a different author than 1 Thessalonians.   There are actually lots of reasons, as I will show in subsequent posts, but for now I’m simply giving my discussion as found in my trade book Forged, written for a non-scholarly audience.   Here is my full discussion in that context of the authorship of 2 Thessalonians.   As you’ll see, it’s short and to the point.  The scholarly discussion is much longer and involved, and I’ll be giving that in subsequent posts. *********************************************************** Paul himself thought the end was coming in his lifetime.  Nowhere is this more clear than in one of the letters we are sure he wrote, 1 Thessalonians.   Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica because some of them had become disturbed over the death of a number of their fellow believers.  When he converted these people, Paul had taught them that the end of the age was imminent, that they were soon to enter the [...]

2020-04-03T14:16:15-04:00December 17th, 2014|Paul and His Letters|

Pauline Forgeries: 2 Thessalonians as a Test Case

In my previous post I started answering the question of how the letters not by Paul differ from the letters that are by Paul.  In that post I pointed out that we know that there were Pauline forgeries in the early church (that is, letters written by authors who were claiming to be Paul when they were in fact someone else).   No one doubts that.  We have letters from outside the NT that claim to be by Paul but were absolutely not:  3 Corinthians, the Letter to the Laodiceans, and the 12 letters exchanged between Paul and the Roman philosopher Seneca.   These are all forged. But are there letters that falsely claim to be written by Paul that are also *in* the New Testament?   Critical scholars (as opposed to fundamentalists and very conservative evangelical Christians) agree that there are.   Scholars normally place the thirteen Pauline letters of the New Testament into three categories:  The Pastoral Epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, which are very widely recognized as having been written by someone other [...]

2020-04-11T15:54:37-04:00December 16th, 2014|Forgery in Antiquity, Paul and His Letters|

Forgeries in the Name of Paul

QUESTION:  Something I would love to see you talk about is how the letters we think were written by Paul differ from the letters we think were not written by him. RESPONSE: Yes, this is an all-important question, and one I’ve been interested in for a very long time.   As many readers of the blog know, I’ve recently published two books on the broad question of “forgeries” in early Christianity, one of them written for scholars at a fairly dense, academic level, and the other for a lay audience (“normal” people, as opposed to abnormal scholars).   In these books I use the term “forgery” in a very specific, technical sense, to refer to books that make a false authorial claim – that is, a “forgery” is a book whose author claims to be someone other than who he is, almost always someone famous.  For the early Christians, these would invariably be the “authorities” who knew Jesus during his lifetime or soon after (so, Peter, Mary, James, Paul, Thomas, Philip, etc – we even have a [...]

Why Would Christian Authors Write Forgeries?

In my previous post I cited the box in the new edition of my textbook that explained how Christian authors may have justified themselves in writing “literary deceits,” that is, books that claimed to be written by someone else, for example, a famous apostle such as Peter and Paul (as is almost certainly true of Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and 1 and 2 Peter, e.g.).   Several readers have asked me, though, why a Christian author would *do* such a thing as commit forgery.   It’s one thing to indicate how an author would justify such a deceit (the point of my last post); but why would he engage in the deceit in the first place? In my books on forgery(both the trade book Forged and the scholarly monography Forgery and Counterforgery) I indicate a number of motives that ancient authors (for example, Jews and pagans) had for producing their forgeries: some did it to make money, some did it to attack a personal enemy, some did it to authorize a philosophical [...]

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 [...]

New Boxes Related to Literary Forgery and the NT

Here are two more new boxes in my new edition of The New Testatment: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings.    Both of these deal with issues that I cover in my book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics and, to a lesser extent, in my trade book, Forged. **************************************************************** Box 25.2  Another Glimpse Into the Past The Secretary Hypothesis For a very long time there have been scholars who have argued that the reason books like 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastoral epistles are so unlike Paul’s other writings – both in writing style and contents – is that in these instances Paul used a “secretary” and that this other person, his secretary, actually did the writing for him, after Paul gave some instructions about what to say.  This is a view that I myself was taught in graduate school.  It is still widely taught today.   The problem is that there is almost no evidence for it. By that I do not mean that there is [...]

2020-04-11T16:00:44-04:00October 31st, 2014|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|

My Scholarly and Trade Books on Forgery

A couple of posts ago I mentioned the books that I anticipate writing in the future.  I like to plan my life in advance.  I like to plan my week in advance.  I like to plan my day in advance.  I like to plan.   For my current ten-year publishing plan, the two immediate goals are not so immediate, as they will take three or four years, I should think.   The next book, I hope, will be the trade book for popular audiences on the oral traditions of Jesus in the years before the Gospels were written; that will be followed by a scholarly book on a very similar topic, not written for normal human beings but for abnormal academics. In my last post I began to talk about how I had done something similar before.  My trade book Misquoting Jesus, was a popular treatment of topics that I had dealt with at a scholarly level in several books and a number of academic articles.   I did something comparable with two other trade books. It worked [...]

2020-04-12T12:16:52-04:00August 19th, 2014|Book Discussions, Forgery in Antiquity|
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