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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|

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|

Early Doubts about the Pastorals

In my discussion of the role of women in the early church, I discussed the fact that women are ordered to be silent in 1 Timothy, one of the Pastoral epistles, but that this view should not be attributed to Paul himself because, despite the fact that 1 Timothy *claims* to have been written by Paul, it almost certainly was not -- that is, its author was lying about his identity. A lot (a *whole* lot) of modern-day scholars and lay readers object (strenuously) to the idea that the author was actually “lying,” but I go to great lengths in my two books on forgery (one written for a general audience, the other written for scholars) to show that in the ancient world, pseudepigraphic writing (that is, when an author claims to be a famous person, knowing perfectly well that he was someone else) was considered a form of literary deceit and was in fact denounced as a form of lying. Be that as it may, the reality is that the majority of NT scholars [...]

A Third Forgery in the Name of Peter

As I mentioned in the two previous posts, in my talk at Unity Village the other night, I introduced my discussion of whether there could be forgeries in the New Testament by introducing three forgeries from *outside* the New Testament; the first was the Gospel of Peter with its giant Jesus and walking-talking cross at the resurrection and the second was the letter of Peter to James in which he attacks “the man who is my enemy,” a transparent reference to the apostle Paul. The third is the one I’ll mention here: another book allegedly, but not really, written by Peter, this time an apocalypse, the Apocalypse of Peter. As it turns out we have three “apocalypses” allegedly written by Peter. The one I dealt with in my talk is the most famous of the three, one discovered in 1886, in the same book in which the Gospel of Peter is found. It is a 66-page book that contains four texts. In some ways the Apocalypse of Peter is the most interesting. It is the [...]

Forgery and the Gospel of Peter

So in my talk on forgery last night, I introduced the question of whether there could be forgeries inside the New Testament by talking about forgeries that definitely exist *outside* the New Testament; and to do that I began by speaking of three books that Peter, the disciple of Jesus, allegedly wrote.   My definition of forgery is a fairly technical one.  When I speak about forgery I’m not talking about books whose contents have been made up or fabricated, and I’m not talking about books whose contents have been falsified and modified over the years.   I’m talking purely about authorial claims.  A forgery is a book whose author claims to be a (famous) person when in fact he is someone else – and he knows full well he is someone else.   If some writes a book claiming to be Paul, but in fact he is not Paul, that’s a forgery. The phenomenon was widely known, widely practiced, and widely condemned in antiquity, as I’ve talked about on this blog before. To read this blog post [...]

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