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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 readers, editors, and scribes who called them by these names). But it does apply to any book that claims to be written by someone who in fact did not write it, as is the case for example of Ephesians or 1 Timothy (claiming to be written by Paul, but not), or 1 and 2 Peter (not actually written by Peter) or James or Jude (not actually written by Jesus’ own brothers).


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Is The NT Portrayal of Jesus Accurate? Debate With Craig Evans
Video: Misquoting Jesus



  1. Avatar
    revben02  November 8, 2013

    Bravo!! Totally enjoyed the whole encounter!! Great job, Dr. Bart, as usual!! I use your material all the time!!

  2. Avatar
    donmax  November 9, 2013

    I have noticed of late that your blog is MUCH IMPROVED! Congratulations. 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Steefen  November 9, 2013

    Bart Ehrman

    I *do* that kind of scholarly heavy hitting in my other book Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in the Early Christian Tradition. But most lay folk are not about to read *that* book, for good reason.


    If I read another book of yours without an index, I’m going to scream; so, if everything that is in Forged is in Forgery, I’ll read the latter.

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    Wilusa  November 9, 2013

    I’m an agnostic, and certainly don’t believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus. But I think Dr. Jones was wrong in, perhaps, implying that many people who think that’s an all-important belief would be unable to say *why* they think it’s all-important.

    The way I understood the teaching in my youth was that Jesus had come to remind people of the need to care for others…provide for the ill and poor, not discriminate against minorities, not judge others harshly, and so forth. Presumably, most of those with whom he came in contact weren’t leading good lives, and wouldn’t have changed solely because a preacher told them to. He had to rise from the dead to PROVE HE WAS GOD…the ultimate reason for taking seriously everything he’d said.

    I doubt that was ever the official Church teaching, but it was the way I – and probably many others – understood it.

  5. Avatar
    maxhirez  November 9, 2013

    I know it’s off topic, but that’s a nice looking blazer on you.

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    RonaldTaska  November 10, 2013

    With all of the divine killing, divine ordered killing, textual variations, contradictions, unclear writing, descriptions of extraordinary events, and in this video, authorship questions, how in the world can anyone be so certain that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly against such a conclusion.

    • Avatar
      judaswasjames  November 11, 2013

      Now you’re catching on. It’s literature, and not much more. Go to RSSB dot org if you want to learn the true Teachings of Masters, Ron. I’ve met two of them.

    • Avatar
      willow  November 17, 2013

      A bit off topic perhaps, but, after spending decades in the church I’ve come to conclude that a whole lot of people can’t read beyond what the preachers preach from their pulpits, and surely preachers aren’t pointing out errors even so that when one faithful parishioner (or a million of them) reads the text it says what the authority (preacher/teacher) says it says, rather than what it actually does say. Thusly, if the preacher/teacher says there are no errors, there are no errors – none that can’t be explained away via apologetics or the insistence that one ignore whatever discrepancy and proceed blindly, by faith, even so that one need not, or dare not, doubt or question.

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    Wilusa  November 10, 2013

    A follow-up to what I was saying before: The idea, as I understood it in my youth, was that if Jesus *hadn’t* risen from the dead, the whole thing would be crap. Everything about the faith depended on this miracle that PROVED HE WAS GOD. Otherwise, he wouldn’t just have been “no more authoritative a source than any other self-proclaimed holy man.” He would have been an out-and-out fraud, because he’d (supposedly) *claimed* he was God, and been unable to back it up.

    BTW, the new messages from this blog are driving me nuts. They aren’t worded clearly enough! I’d like to get just your replies to me, as we used to get. I’m afraid that if I don’t click on “Confirm Follow,” I won’t get anything; but if I do click on it, I may get all everyone’s Comments.

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    nichael  November 11, 2013

    There is discussion above about the difference between the (related) books “Forged” and “Forgery and Counterforgery”.

    If I may ask a related, although somewhat off-topic, question: What is the difference between “The Apocryphal Gospels” and the soon-to-be-published “The Other Gospels”? (Or to put this another way, for those of us who already own tAG, will we be interested in getting tOG as well when it comes out?)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 12, 2013

      The new book does not include the Greek, Latin, and Coptic, and the introductions have been rewritten for a lay audience.

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    ottomobile  November 11, 2013

    I enjoyed the lecture, as always, but one of Mr. Jones’s remarks has me scratching my head. As I recall, he comments that he is not disturbed to find out there are forgeries in the Bible because it remains ‘true’ regardless of who says it. As an outsider, I find it very difficult to apply that respect for ‘universal truth’ the letters of Paul. One would consider Paul’s writings to be ‘true’ because of his claims of divine revelation. If it were not PAUL making the claim, how could it be considered worthwhile? From what I’ve read, NT books were canonized because of WHO they were believed to be written by. Were there any apocryphal books that the church considered legitimate writings of apostles yet were NOT included?

    I’d be curious to learn if there are any items of doctrine that exist solely in the forged documents. I’ve already noticed conflicting ideas about being saved through works, for example, but are there any tenets that would be dismissed entirely were the forged epistles to be removed?

    (Just downloaded ‘Forged’, btw!)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 13, 2013

      No, I think that any truly apostolic book that was widely known was included in the canon. On the doctrines of the forged documents: you should read them! They’re very interesting! (Of course, a lot are in the NT itself….)

    • Avatar
      willow  November 17, 2013

      “One would consider Paul’s writings to be ‘true’ because of his claims of divine revelation.”
      This troubles me as well considering such divine revelations, or visions, grant similar authority to Mohammed (Islam) and Smith (Mormonism).

  10. Avatar
    FrankB57  November 14, 2013

    Around the 57 minute mark, explains exactly the issue to me, Bart. Thank you. Misguided, misrepresented faith is harmful to many of us. 100% agreement.

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